A traumatic experience can have long-term consequences.
Trauma can be experienced as one emotionally distressing event or it can be experienced as lots of events over the course of time. Harm, pain and suffering inflicted onto a person directly by another person has been found to be more traumatic than other distressing experiences such as being in an accident, personal tragedy, witnessing an event or being involved in an environmental disaster.
Trauma causes high levels of synaptic charge in the neurons in the brain. By talking the experience through in a supportive environment, perhaps again and again, a traumatized person ‘processes’ the information until the experience feels ‘manageable’. However, when this ‘processing’ does not occur someone can remain negatively and seriously affected by their experiences.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
In some cases people can develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
PTSD is a condition where a person feels affected in the present time by a traumatic experience that happened in the past.
An example of this could be someone who had witnessed a shooting could see and hear the event being replayed over and over again. This ‘replaying’ could be in their mind, in nightmares or actually in front of them as if in real life (flashbacks). Similarly, someone who had witnessed a shooting might ‘jump’ or be excessively startled every time a door slammed or an object fell to the floor. A particular smell might trigger emotional arousal. There will be many different triggers for different types of trauma.
In addition to feelings of emotional distress, a trigger will activate intense physical reactions to the memory/memories. These could be feelings of nausea, sweating, trembling, muscle tension, aches and pains or even passing out. Further symptoms of PTSD include sleep disruption, change in mood, problems with attention and concentration, feeling constantly ‘on edge’, loss of memory (amnesia), feeling pessimistic and detached from those around you.
Experiencing trauma can leave you overwhelmed with emotion, fearful, vulnerable and feeling out of control. It is completely normal to feel an excessive response to an abnormal event. However, it is important to give yourself the opportunity to ‘process’ the difficult and painful information you are storing in your mind and body.
Trauma can be any number of ‘emotionally significant’ events, many of which can occur in childhood. Breaking up with a loved one is now being recognised as ‘traumatic’.
I am fully trained in EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) which is recommended by the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) as one of the most effective treatments for trauma and PTSD. The reason that this particular form of therapy is more effective than other more ‘talking focused’ therapies such as CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) is that trauma is located in the ‘emotional centres’ of the brain. There is a strong physical/body component to trauma and EMDR provides the space for you to ‘reprocess’ the experience, safely through guided therapeutic channels so that you no longer hold the trauma in your every day awareness. As a result, you will feel healed, restored, much more in control and more relaxed and at ease with yourself.