The experience of trauma can change one’s life to the point where things become unmanageable. Individuals may develop trauma responses that interfere with their functioning. The impact of trauma may leave them feeling like the world is not the safe place they imagined. This may result in individuals being suspicious and very alert of their environment at all times: they can experience hyper-vigilance or a greater readiness to flee or fight. Living in emergency, they have learned not to trust. At the same time as having heightened responses, they may also “shut down” a great deal, so that many of their normal responses to life and to other people are not accessible to them.
With Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) many normal processes are more intense, while some others may become blunted. People whose normal lives have been drastically changed by the sudden intrusion of a horrifying and destructive event(s) are experiencing more than they can integrate, and their sense of security and safety is shattered.
Here are some of the symptoms you might see:
- Intense emotion and reactivity- People exposed to traumatic events may feel intense pain, terror, shame, horror, grief, rage, and shock. Individuals may feel activated and alert most of the time. They may be jumpy, constantly scanning their environment for danger, and can be easily startled. Sleeping difficulties are common.
- Numbness – Life may become overwhelming or feel too stimulating. Emotional numbness maybe found where the individual is isolated and/or cut off from others while being unable to experience the regular emotions attached to situations, places and people.
- Flashbacks – People who have experienced trauma will often repeat the events over and over again, against their will. They may experience intrusive thoughts of the events and re-live the memories.
- Nightmares – These are similar to flashbacks, but occur in sleep. As a result some people can be afraid to go to sleep, have interrupted sleep and experience sleep deprivation.
- Triggering – Often people will respond to events that remind them of the trauma with all the feelings that belonged to the trauma itself and become anxious when confronted with such a reminder. Trauma responses may include avoidance of places, people or things that are related to the traumatic event(s).
Treatment includes increasing the repertoire of safety and containment skills and working towards becoming a survivor of your past. Sessions promote each patient’s self-esteem and sense of self-worth in order to strengthen into healthy identity.