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You toss and turn at night and have vivid and upsetting dreams. You may feel irritable much of the time, and find yourself drinking too much. You begin to wonder, “Do I have trauma or PTSD?”
Living with the aftermath of experiencing trauma can be very trying and exhausting. Even if the event occurred weeks ago, you might still be struggling. Trauma can have long-lasting and devastating effects on your quality of life. To learn more about the effects of trauma, keep reading.
What is Trauma?
Do I have trauma? When someone experiences or witnesses a shocking and often unpredictable event it is referred to as a trauma. The range of traumatic events is broad, but in general, trauma is anything that evokes a deep sense of fear and anxiety due to a perceived danger to self.
Examples of traumatic events might include:
- Childhood sexual abuse, neglect, or assault.
- Sexual abuse or rape.
- Sudden death of loved one.
- Violent assault.
- Serious injury or illness.
- Witness to a violent event.
- Natural disasters.
- Combat trauma.
- Serious car accident.
- Witness to suicide or murder.
What is PTSD?
Although most people will process the trauma and move forward with life, some have long-lasting effects. Post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) is the diagnosis made when a person is still struggling with the trauma a month after it happened. With PTSD, the person dwells on the trauma or relives it through nightmares or flashbacks. This can paralyze the person with fear, dread, depression, and anxiety for a prolonged period.
Symptoms of PTSD tend to fall into these groups:
- Re-experiencing. Someone with PTSD will relive the traumatic event repeatedly through flashbacks, nightmares, or trauma-related triggers. The emotional reactions to these memories are also re-experienced.
- Mood. You exhibit detachment, mistrust, signs of depression, guilt, loss of interest in daily life, and social isolation.
- Hyper-arousal. You tend to be on edge much of the time. You may appear jittery, agitated, angry, and easily excitable or startled.
- Avoidance. You will avoid the places, situations, or people that trigger disturbing memories of the event.
- Substance abuse. You may rely on the effects of alcohol or drugs to help numb the above symptoms.
Why Do Some Handle Trauma Better Than Others?
Why is it that one person is able to process a traumatic event and move forward, whereas another gets PTSD? It could be the same trauma, such as soldiers witnessing horror on the battlefield, yet one will be ok and the other one won’t. You may wonder why do I have trauma and others don’t.
Mental health disorders often have complex roots, and PTSD bears this out. Some inroads are being made through research. A study reported by the NIMH identified certain factors that may play into the way we respond to trauma:
Gene make-up. Research into the causal factors of PTSD using mice identified the stathmin protein in DNA. When this protein is present it forms fear memories after being exposed to a trauma.
Brain chemistry. Gastrin-releasing peptide (GRP) is a brain chemical that is released during traumatic events. Those who lack GRP may form more intense and longer-lasting fear imprints. Also, studies have shown that the 5-HRRLPR gene can cause unregulated serotonin that fuels the fear response.
Family history. When there is a family history of anxiety and depression it can increase the odds of getting PTSD. A history of head injuries or childhood trauma may also be a factor in PTSD.
Trauma Treatment Options
When trauma is adversely affecting your life, it is time to seek treatment from a mental health expert. Overcoming trauma is a process of shifting your focus from the past to the present, and reducing the trauma impact.
Mental health providers use a range of therapies to assist patients in healing from the effects of the trauma. These include:
- TFCBT. TFCBT is designed to help patients overcome trauma by reshaping the thoughts linked with the trauma. A therapist helps the trauma victim express their feelings about the event. They then show them how those thoughts have led to withdrawal, guilt, loneliness, anxiety, and other low mood states. This therapy helps the patient examine the negative thoughts, and then reframe them in a healthier light. This helps the trauma memory lose its power.
- Psychodynamic Therapy. This is a longer-term therapy that will focus on childhood experiences, including any history of trauma. The insights gained can help the person resolve past trauma, as well as to improve current dysfunctional adult relationships.
- Exposure Therapy. This is a short-term behavioral therapy that helps patients become less sensitive to the memories or triggers of the trauma. Discussing the event, along with gradual exposure to the triggers, reduces the impact over time. This helps correct avoidance behaviors they may have acquired after the trauma.
Psych meds may also be helpful for some patients. This is especially true if the person struggles with insomnia, depression, or anxiety symptoms.
Other Treatment Methods for Trauma or PTSD
There are also complementary therapies that enhance the other therapies. These include:
- EMDR. EMDR is a type of therapy that helps trauma patients by slowly desensitizing them to the memories of the trauma. EMDR is an 8-phase program where the client follows an object or finger back and forth with their eyes. As they do this exercise they also discuss the traumatic event.
- Neurofeedback. A type of biofeedback where the patient’s brain wave patterns and activity can be modified through a computer software program. This helps train the patient to be calmer when thoughts of the trauma arise.
- Holistic Activities. Holistic activities can help keep stress under control, especially when thoughts of the event are stoke anxiety. The patient is taught to manage stress through deep breathing exercises, mindfulness, guided imagery, yoga, or massage therapy.
Mental Health Hope Provides Free Online Guidance for Mental Health Needs
Mental Health Hope is a free resource for receiving support for mental health issues such as trauma relief or treatment. If you are wondering “Do I have trauma?” please reach out to us today for assistance at (877) 967-9274.