When faced with a situation that leaves us feeling physically or psychologically stressed and overcome by fear and, or helplessness, we can feel overcome in our ability to manage. For some of us, this can trigger a response called PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder with symptoms that can continue for months and in some cases years.
Dealing with trauma
Trauma can be acute, a one-off incident like a mugging, car accident, witnessing a death, sexual assault including rape, being caught up in the horror of a terrorist attack. Ongoing, chronic trauma can include abusive relationships, bullying, sexual abuse, stalking. This type of repeated trauma, over time, can wear down your sense of self leaving you feeling fearful, powerless, broken.
Trauma IncidentsPTSD can be triggered by an innumerable array of incidents depending on the context and impact on the particular individual. Individuals come through:
- Experiencing or witnessing accidents involving transportation including cars, planes, trains, buses, trams, motorbikes, cycles.
- Life-threatening incidents and or severe trauma during combat.
- Physical or verbal assault including mugging, racial assaults or witnessing an attack.
- Abusive relationships and domestic abuse including physical, emotional, financial, sexual abuse, verbal abuse, and coercive control.
- Sexual trauma including assault, rape, and sexual abuse, stalking.
- Being involved in or witnessing a terrorist attack.
- Floods, fires, storms, hurricanes. Natural disasters are often collective, shared traumas that happen on larger scales affecting bigger populations.
- Wars affect civilian and military populations. At the civilian level, numerous traumas and horrors are experienced and witnessed.
Indicators of Trauma
Trauma left untreated can express itself via the body, emotionally and psychologically through:
- Nightmares and Flashbacks (Intrusive re-experiencing of the trauma)
- Hypervigilance – over-cautious, alert, jumpy, easily startled
- Avoidance of places, people, talk, thoughts or feelings of the original trauma
- Problems with sleep, appetite
- Feeling disconnected, detached from self and others
- Isolating self
- Feelings of guilt, self-blame, blaming others, survivor’s guilt
After the initial shock of a trauma wears off and the tasks of life inevitably start to resume, the temptation can often be to think ‘I just need to get back into my routine and it will be ok, this will all go away’. Routine can help. It brings structure and predictability after a traumatic event.
Some of us have friends, partners, and family we can talk to and support plays an essential part in recovering from trauma. Yet we can still find it difficult to articulate our feelings to loved ones. There may be fear of appearing ‘weak’ or to blame for not coping as well as we expect or emotions around not reacting differently in the original traumatic situation. Many things can complicate how we feel and manage our trauma, leading to isolation and depression. At times like these, talking to a therapist can be beneficial.
How Psychotherapy & Counselling Can Help Overcome TraumaTrauma response is very individual and can occur for a number of reasons and how we experience and contend with it depends on a number of factors. Our own makeup, neurobiology, history of trauma, resilience, the support we have around us, the level of security and trust in the world we had before the incident will all play a part in how we grasp what has happened and how we learn to have hope and feel safe in the world again.
Psychotherapy and counselling can facilitate the processing of your trauma in a safe space free of judgment. Experiencing a traumatic event can leave you feeling disconnected from those closest to you, a sense of ‘no one understanding your experience’. It can feel lonely and isolating.
Therapy helps by:
- Providing an opportunity to identify triggers of symptoms of PTSD.
- Gradually owning the pain, fear, grief, loss of control experienced as a result of the trauma and expressing it safely within therapy.
- Telling your story, oftentimes retelling it helps to organize emotions and thoughts into a coherent order. This allows for a sense of meaning to be made of what has occurred.
- Piecing together your narrative into a whole picture enables you to build trust within yourself, the world and others around you.
- Processing the trauma and integrating into it your whole life experience. This can help towards a progression from living in the stuck unprocessed traumatic event.
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|I counsel individuals and couples from my private practice in Central London. My main therapeutic goal is to help every client realise their inner potential through an interactive and supportive relationship.
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