The human mind is, by nature, structured to be adaptive, resilient, and flexible. There are, however, certain experiences that are simply too much for the mind to process properly. Depending on the person, these intense experiences could leave a deep impression on them, causing stress, fear, and a host of other emotions and mental conditions.
This condition is not something that is rare or isolated to specific groups or areas. A 2021 report from the Anxiety and Depression Association of America indicates that at least 7.7 million adults in the U.S. suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which is a by-product of unresolved trauma. This number practically guarantees a good amount of people from every state in the U.S. have suffered from some unaddressed or unresolved trauma at one point in their life.
This is why people who experienced trauma and continue to carry it with them need to see a professional who could help. Most states in the U.S. have facilities that are staffed with specialists who can help, much like Tulua Health, a California trauma disorders treatment center specializing in mental health issues.
What is Trauma?
Trauma is an intense emotional and psychological response to a significant event. The event could be physically damaging, such as an accident, natural disaster, or even something rooted with family, trusted people, or close friends.
Depending upon the particular psychological makeup of a person, certain traumas could be processed into memories. Other events, however, tend to stay longer with some people, often affecting their behavior. This effect could come in the form of anger, fear, paranoia, or great sadness.
If left untreated, trauma could continue to cause untold psychological and emotional damage. There are people who suffer debilitating attacks of anxiety or panic that are triggered by some past trauma. The worst part is that some of these people don’t even realize that the great fear, resentment, or anger that they feel is due to the trauma, or its more aggravated form, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Specialists have long been studying all the nuances of trauma, such as why people tend to suffer so greatly from it, why it stays so long with a person, and how best to cope with it. These studies have, so far, isolated three main types of trauma:
Sometimes all it takes to affect a person profoundly is a single event. This event could be something that he or she is unable to deal with, forget, or even understand. That being the case, the event becomes a source of acute trauma for the person.
Acute trauma is associated with a single, significant event of such magnitude that it completely overwhelms the person and their ability to process it. What happens is that the single, significant event creates so much stress, anxiety, and fear that the body’s autonomic nervous system, or ANS, the part of the human nervous system associated with the survival instinct, gets stuck in threat response.
The ANS, just like every other emergency response system, needs to be “turned off” once the crisis has passed. Having it constantly “turned on” results in the person always being on edge, always tense, and in a state quite akin to paranoia. Some of the documented traumatic events that could trigger acute trauma include:
- Combat or warfare
- Terrorist attacks
- Incidents that trigger sudden grief (death of a loved one or similar tragedy)
- Physical or sexual abuse
- Natural disasters
- Life-threatening medical conditions
The symptoms of acute trauma tend to show up not long after the event that triggered it. These symptoms include:
- Anxiety attacks
- Panic attacks
- Dissociation or detachment
- Re-living the traumatic event
- Intrusive thoughts, memories, or dreams
- Avoidance or denial
- Extreme worry
- Suicidal thoughts
- Persistent feelings of grief or gloom
- Disrupted sleep patterns
People experience chronic trauma when they are subjected to repeated or prolonged events that bring about the trauma. The emotional and psychological damage from chronic trauma is believed to be far worse than that of acute trauma because the person who experienced it kept going through it multiple times.
People who experience chronic trauma typically require extensive treatment and therapy, mainly because the person’s consciousness will try to bury the traumatic event deep inside if only to prevent a mental breakdown from it. Being buried deep, therapists will have more difficulty in treating chronic trauma as those who have it might be in complete denial of it or could be immensely evasive about it.
Possible sources of chronic trauma include:
- Prolonged or repeated child abuse
- Prolonged exposure to conflict, combat, or warfare
- Repeated physical or sexual abuse
- Repeated domestic violence
- Repeated direct or indirect exposure to accidents or injuries (as a doctor, nurse, or first responder)
The symptoms of chronic trauma are somewhat similar to what people with acute trauma exhibit, as both are tied in with unconscious behavior:
- Anxiety attacks
- Bouts of depression
- Unexplained sadness or melancholy
- Unpredictable emotional outbursts
- Low self-esteem
- Extreme fatigue or exhaustion
- Disrupted sleep patterns
- Vivid dreams or nightmares (could be reflective at some point of trauma experienced)
- Vivid flashbacks
- Distorted or affected memories
Complex trauma, as the name would suggest is a combination of certain elements from both acute and chronic trauma. It is typically associated with significant experiences that could involve interpersonal threats which may have happened during childhood or adolescence.
The traumatic events that lead to complex trauma are normally within the context of a child’s relationships during their development phase and are held to have been experienced repeatedly.
Psychologists believe that while there are people who do manifest PTSD due to this type of trauma, there are those who barely manifest any adverse reaction to it at all, and will only come out when thoroughly and consistently prodded.
For those who do manifest symptoms, they usually come in the form of:
- Persistent feelings of sadness and melancholy
- Sudden outbursts of anger
- Unexplained feelings of despair
- Distrust or difficulty in trusting others
- Feelings of detachment from other people and even from the self
- Preference towards isolation
- Unexplained feelings of guilt
- A tendency towards self-harm or self-mutilation
- Unexplained feeling of helplessness
- Intense thoughts of revenge
- Suicidal tendencies
- Inability to feel sympathy or empathy
What is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?
There are people who actually have a good hold on their own psyche, able to shake off memories or events that would ruin other people. Many others, however, require therapy because of unresolved and unaddressed trauma they experienced at some point in their lives.
These unresolved and unaddressed traumatic events tend to fester and develop into post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD. This condition was previously only attributed to people who have seen combat or warfare, such as soldiers, and to people who are exposed to daily conflict and violence, such as the police.
PTSD, however, could happen to anyone, even those who have not seen combat, warfare, or even daily violence. All it takes is an event that shakes people to the core, and it is sure to have a lasting effect. As people react differently, some people could require no more than the prescribed duration of addiction treatment programs, while others spend years in treatment and therapy while trying to deal with their PTSD.
How is PTSD Treated?
Psychological trauma and PTSD primarily affect and disrupt the mind. The treatments, to be effective, are likewise targeted at the mind and a person’s cognitive functions.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) highlights the relationship between a person’s feelings, thoughts, and behavior. It also focuses on changing the patterns of behavior and how people think relevant to certain things.
CBT is particularly useful in dealing with PTSD because it focuses on processing thoughts and feelings. As PTSD is basically unprocessed trauma, CBT allows the person to recognize what the trauma did to them, help them understand that they don’t need to hold on to the troublesome thoughts associated with the trauma, and therefore move past it at one point.
Prolonged Exposure Therapy
This form of therapy is often called “shock therapy” by some because of what it entails. Unlike other treatments, this type of treatment takes on the trauma head-on. It focuses on confrontation, encouraging the person to confront their trauma instead of avoiding it, so that they achieve dominance or control over it, instead of allowing it to control them.
This operates on the idea that the human mind will conquer anything it is set to, all it needs is proper aiming. It also makes use of the built-in resilience of people, another component of the survival instinct.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing
This form of treatment is associated with a lot of science fiction concepts, as it is akin to basically “reprogramming” the brain to the point where the trauma is erased, processed, or made ineffective against the person.
It is similar to the concept of redirection: a person is made to concentrate on the trauma while they watch or listen to something, usually repetitive sounds or flashing lights, and then told to think of something positive instead of the normal fear, aggression, or despair they associate with the trauma.
At Tulua Health, We Take No Chances With Mental Health
We here at Tulua Health know how sensitive and personal trauma could be. It is not something to be taken lightly, nor dismissed carelessly. We know this because we have helped people through the most difficult mental health issues and conditions they have. We can help you too. Contact us anytime.