What is Trauma and do you Need Trauma Therapy?
The word “trauma” is used to describe experiences or situations that are emotionally distressing, are too overwhelming for the person to cope with , and where the person feels powerless. Trauma can occur frequently and become part of the common human experience and counselling through EMDR therapy can help relieve this feeling of powerlessness.
Commonly Overlooked Causes of Trauma that may Require Therapy:
- Falls or sports injuries
- Surgery (especially in the first 3 years of life)
- The sudden death of someone close
- A car accident
- The breakup of a significant relationship
- A humiliating or deeply disappointing experience
- The discovery of a life-threatening illness or disabling condition
- Finding out about an affair or betrayal
Hyper-arousal: This is when the traumatized person’s physiology is in high gear, after being assaulted by the psychological impact of what happened and it is not able to reset. The symptoms of hyper- arousal include: difficulty sleeping and concentrating, being easily startled, irritability, anger, agitation, panic, and hyper vigilance (being hyper-alert to danger), racing thoughts, heat pounding, or shallow breath.
Constriction: The body tightens up and is unable to fight or flee.
Disassociation: This occurs when there is a separation of awareness from physical reality. A means of experiencing moments that are not endurable. Woody Allen said it best “I am not afraid of dying I just don’t want to be there”.
Denial: Disconnection between the person and the event accompanied by feelings of helplessness and a feeling of being completely immobilized.
After a trauma, people go through a wide range of normal responses. Such reactions are experienced not only by the people who were involved in the trauma first-hand, but often also by those who have either witnessed or heard about or have had different kinds of involvement with the person or persons immediately affected. Many reactions tend to be triggered by people, places, or things associated with the trauma. Some reactions may appear totally unrelated. Here is a list of common physical and emotional reactions to trauma, as well as a list of helpful coping strategies.
Physical Reactions: Aches and pains like headaches, backaches, stomach aches, sudden sweating and/or heart palpitations (fluttering). Any changes in sleep patterns, appetite, interest in sex, problems with constipation or diarrhoea, easily startled by noises or unexpected touch, or more susceptible to colds and illnesses.
Emotional Reactions: Shock and disbelief, fear and/or anxiety, grief, disorientation, denial, hyper-alertness or hyper vigilance, irritability and/or restlessness, outbursts of anger or rage, emotional swings — like crying and then laughing, worrying or ruminating, intrusive thoughts of the trauma, nightmares, flashbacks — feeling like the trauma is happening now, feelings of helplessness, feelings of panic or feeling out of control, increased need to control everyday experiences, minimizing the experience, attempts to avoid anything associated with trauma, tendency to isolate oneself, feelings of detachment, concern over burdening others with problems, emotional numbing, restricted range of feelings, difficulty trusting and/or feelings of betrayal, difficulty concentrating or remembering, increased use of alcohol or drugs and/or overeating, feelings of self-blame, survivor guilt, shame, diminished interest in everyday activities, depression, unpleasant past memories resurfacing, loss of a sense of order or fairness in the world, expectation of doom.
Helpful Coping Strategies: Mobilize support system — You should reach out and connect with others, especially with those who may have shared the stressful event. You should talk openly about the traumatic experience and if you feel you need to cry, then go ahead. Hard exercise like jogging, aerobics, cycling, walking will help to relieve some stress. Furthermore, relaxation exercises such as yoga, stretching, massage, humour, prayer and/or meditation, hot baths, music and art will help to relax you. This combined with maintaining a balanced diet and sleep cycle as much as possible while avoiding caffeine, sugar, nicotine will be hugely beneficial to your recovery. You should commitment to something that has real meaning for you and don’t forget to hug those you love because hugging releases endogenous opioids! Also try to eat warm turkey, boiled onions, baked potatoes, cream-based soups as much as you can as these warm foods are tryptophan. I also recommend that you write about your experience in detail, just for yourself or to share with others.
People are usually surprised that recovery from trauma lasts longer than expected. It may take weeks, months, and in some cases, years, to regain equilibrium. Many people will get through this period on their own, with the help and support of family and friends. But too often friends and family push the trauma victim to “get over it” before they’re ready, or encourage feeling sorry for or trying to understand the perpetrator.
Remind them that such responses are not helpful for recovery right now. Many people find that individual, group, or family counselling is helpful. Either way, the key word is ATTACHMENT — ask for help, support, understanding, and look for opportunities to talk.
What to Expect at an EMDR Trauma Therapy Session & How it Works
What is an EMDR session like? First off, the client and therapist will work together to collect basic information about the traumatic experience. Here, the most disturbing part of the incident is identified and this becomes the processing target.
Example: Image of the rapist’s face. The negative belief connected to the trauma is identified.
Example: Never get over this. And a preferred, positive belief is named. Example: It’s over, I can move on with my life now.
Next, the client is asked to rate (on a 1-7 scale) how true the positive belief feels when paired with the target. Usually it does not feel true at this point.
Client is then asked to name the emotions the target elicits, to rate the associated distress level (on a 0-10 scale), and to locate the disturbance in the body.
Example: Fear and shame, with disturbance level in the belly and chest.
Then, client is asked to hold in awareness of the target, the negative belief, and the disturbing body sensations. At the same time, the therapist instructs the client’s eyes to move rapidly back and forth. This is done in sets, which may last from a “few seconds to a few minutes”. During each set the client is instructed to just notice whatever changes occur in mind and body, without controlling the experience in any way. Very often, in the first few sets there is an increase in the disturbance level. After a while, with each new set, the target becomes less and less disturbed and the positive belief feels more and more true.
The target is completely processed when recall of the image no longer brings up disturbing emotions, and the positive belief feels totally true.
Example: Client recalls that the rapist’s face was threatening, but does not feel threatened by the image anymore.
Has EMDR been researched? EMDR is the most researched treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Contact Melody to Find out More About how EMDR Therapy can Help with PTSD
Melody would love to have a quick chat with you about how counselling through EMDR can improve your life. Call her now on (403)808 9124 and begin your journey to recovery today.