Are you suffering with the effects of Trauma?
What are the effects of experiencing a traumatic event, and how does talking about it help?
Has Trauma Come Back To Haunt You?
After the events in Central London and Manchester, you may have been reminded of a trauma you have experienced, or of a time when you witnessed an event that was distressing?
For many people just viewing the distressing scenes on TV of the events unfolding on Westminster Bridge, the Houses of Parliament, and Manchester Arena, has left them upset and anxious.
Whether it’s an act of terrorism, a car accident, an unexpected loss, a burglary, an assault, a serious illness, or a difficult birth, the effects of trauma have a serious impact on our normal everyday functioning.
But have you even thought of these as traumatic events!?
Here are some signs of unresolved trauma ...
- Do you suffer with eating or sleep disturbances, flashbacks, low energy, chronic or unexplained pain?
- Are you having bouts of spontaneous crying, feeling depressed, anxiety, panic attacks, or compulsive and obsessive behaviours?
- Are you irritable, angry or numb?
- Do you have memory lapses, find difficulty in making decisions, have decreased ability to concentrate, or feel distracted?
Trauma can manifest days, months or even years after the actual event. So it doesn’t matter when the traumatic event happened, it can still be influencing you and keeping you from living fully in the present and from feeling alive.
What happens when you experience a trauma?
A trauma causes a fundamental reorganisation of the way the mind and brain manages and organise things. It changes the capacity to think and to feel alive. It can keep you stuck in constant alertness or plunge you into numbness. We can find that we are continually in fight or flight or immobilization modes.
It leaves an imprint on the mind, the brain and the body, leaving us lurking in the past and detached from the present.
The trauma itself is isolated fragments of images, sounds and feelings bursting through ... that no words can describe. You can feel incredibly alone as the traumatic event itself has at some point involved not truly being seen, or not being taking into account. Your inner world becomes chaotic, and energy is needed to keep this at bay to maintain control.
We create incredibly powerful coping strategies such as drinking, binge-eating, bulimia, starvation, drug taking, highly increased sexual activity, self-harming, over working, and Obsessive Compulsive Disorders, to help keep the chaos at bay.
How talking constructively can help ...
Many people try the best they can to deal with the effects of trauma on their own, whether it be trying to shut out the events from their mind, medication, or the good old British ‘stiff upper lip’.
However, if the impact is causing some of the symptoms described here then it can help to speak to a trained professional. Counselling and Psychotherapy can help in many ways.
In speaking about what has happened …
- You re-activate your brain to experience safety, so that you feel less anxious, scared or numb.
- You deactivate the defences that have been built in your mind to ensure survival.
- You learn to open up to the knowledge that this terrible event is in the past (because the brain/body still reacts as if it is in the present). This will enable you to feel present and back in control of your own life.
- The process looks to find YOU again, so you experience a sense of who you are, enabling you to know what you need and want in your life.
- You’ll connect you back with your body so you can feel alive again.
- You can also get back the feeling that you are in charge of your life.
So, if you are suffering from the effects of a trauma, whether that be recently, or long ago in the past, you can do something about it. Talking about it in a structured way can really help. You can also learn more about how to treat trauma at the Treating Trauma Workshop, a 1-day course that runs in London, Manchester and Glasgow. Find out more here.
In the words of Rachel Wolchin, "Time heals nothing unless you move along with it."
To find out more, get in touch!
Dr Tom Barber.