Trauma & PTSD

I am more than just “trauma-informed.”  I have completed post-graduate training in trauma counseling, and my understanding of trauma is an integral part of all of the work that I do with clients.  My training has included the prevalence and effects of traumatic experience, the neurobiology of trauma and trauma treatment and advanced interventions.  I continue to pursue ongoing professional development to stay current on new research and best practices.

About Trauma

While it is not possible to list all of the different types of traumatic experiences, these are some examples:

Many factors affect whether or not you will be traumatized by a potentially traumatic event.  These factors might include your experience of the event, how others respond and react to your experience, the effects the event has on your life and relationships, your cognitive, intellectual and language abilities at the time of the event, your history of prior traumatic exposure, and your existing resources (such as your support system, coping skills and self-care routines).  The intersection of all of these factors helps explain why two people might survive the same car accident, for example, and only one of them may be traumatized.

Many people are familiar with trauma and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, if not from their own lives then from depictions in popular media.  We tend to think that trauma is always violent or life-threatening, like a car accident, combat or sexual assault.  While these are all examples of traumas, there are many different types of traumatic experiences.  Most, if not all, people will have multiple potentially traumatic experiences during their lives.  You may even have experienced trauma in your life and not be aware that it was a trauma.

  • Accidents or Natural Disasters

  • Community Violence, Trafficking, Kidnapping

  • Combat, Mass Shooting or Other Large-Scale Violence

  • Bullying, Discrimination or Systemic Oppression

  • Exposure to Dangerous Substances

  • Serious or Life-Threatening Illness or Injury

  • Self-Injury or Suicide Attempt

  • Incarceration or Hospitalization

  • Harm Caused to Others or Moral Injury

  • Sudden or Traumatic Loss or Death of a Loved One

  • Perinatal Trauma or Pregnancy Loss

  • Breakups and Other Types of Losses

  • Parenting or Caregiving Stressors

  • Emotional Abuse or Neglect

  • Physical Abuse or Neglect

  • Sexual Abuse or Assault

  • Other Types of Abuse or Childhood Trauma

  • Preverbal Trauma

How Trauma Affects Mental Health

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a type of mental health disorder that can develop following a trauma.  There are very specific criteria to determine whether or not you have PTSD.  Some of the symptoms of PTSD include nightmares or difficulty sleeping, flashbacks, intrusive thoughts, avoiding reminders of the traumatic event, irritability, feelings of guilt or shame, changes in the way you view yourself, others or the world, feeling “jumpy” or “paranoid,” impulsive or risk-taking behavior, difficulty concentrating and difficulty remembering important aspects of the event.  Not everyone who has PTSD experiences all of these symptoms, and some individuals with PTSD may experience other symptoms as well.

 

Traumatic experiences can also lead to other types of difficulties altogether, whether or not you meet the specific criteria for PTSD.  You may experience other types of mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, panic attacks, phobias, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, dissociation (a wide range of experiences from “zoning out” to multiple personalities) or psychosis.  Other types of problems, for example, substance use or addiction, gambling, sex addiction, internet or technology addiction, compulsive spending or shopping, shoplifting, skin picking, hair pulling, hoarding, self-injury, suicidal or homicidal thoughts, problems with anger management and problems regulating emotions in general, can all also be responses to traumatic experiences.

 

One important thing to understand is that these symptoms actually represent a normal response to an overwhelming experience.  You are not crazy or broken, and there is nothing wrong with you.  In trauma therapy, we ask “What happened to you?” rather than “What’s wrong with you?”  Another important thing to understand is that these issues are caused by changes in the brain in response to the traumatic experience(s), and these changes can be reversed.  They do not have to be permanent, and you do not have to suffer with these problems forever.  This is something that I can help you with in therapy.

To learn more about trauma therapy, please click here.