Not all trauma symptoms are dramatic

The symptoms of PTSD are variable, we are all different. Today I talk about some of the less known symptoms that treatment can help with.

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Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and trauma responses, are often thought of as being dramatic and invasive.  We most often think of people having intense intrusions, flash-backs, anger and panic, of responses clinicians describe as hyper-arousal.  Hyper-arousal occurs when a person's body suddenly kicks into high alert as a result of thinking about their trauma. Even though real danger may not be present here and now, their body acts as if it is, causing lasting stress after the traumatic event or events, continually activating our fight - flight mechanism.

However, this is only a part of the story.  Oftentimes, people who have been traumatized do not have these experiences, rather, they may have emptiness or absence rather than anything intense.  We call this hypo-arousal.  Hypo-arousal is also known as the 'freeze' response. Here a person may become disconnected from the present and withdraw or dissociate – sometimes having no memory of what's happening. They may feel separate from their thoughts and feelings, and those around them may experience them as being shut down – as though always 'off'.  People with hypo-arousal may not remember things, for example having periods of life with little memory at all.

So, trauma can create charged places, and it can also create empty places.  Sometimes there is a combination of both.  What is needed to support healing is playful, accepting, empathic and curious presence from the psychotherapist assisting the client in their processing.  In essence, the therapist is providing the attuned experiences that were not present at the time of the trauma, and create the safety needed for integration of the split-off trauma responses to occur.

Laurel Parnell suggests Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR), a trauma therapy, helps develop a felt sense of the truth.  It’s one way of the client learning what fits for them, here and now, as they recall what happened there and then.

Together, client and therapist can co-create a big enough space to hold what was not containable at the time the trauma occurred.  This is dynamic, lively work, asking of both their presence and commitment to be fully in the room.  This trust and safety takes a little time to build, but once in place, its effects can be humbling.

If you are experiencing hypo-arousal or hyper-arousal, there are treatments available that may help.  Reach out to your medical professional, or an accredited psychotherapist to learn more.

#trauma #ptsd #overwhelm #dissociation #mentalhealth

Fe Robinson, Psychotherapist

Hi. I'm Fe, and I'm here to help you thrive, whatever life brings. I believe every client is unique, I work with you to help you explore, discover and grow in whatever ways are right for you. I work with a wide range of clients, both long and short term. I offer Psychotherapy, EMDR therapy and Couples Counselling to UK clients online and in Gainford, Co.Durham in North-East England. I am UKCP Accredited and an EMDR Europe Practitioner, and offer Clinical Supervision to counsellors and psychotherapists online and in person. Following a career in Organisation Development I became a therapist because it's my heart work. Before having my family and starting my private practice I worked in the NHS and mental health charities.