Understanding and Treating Trauma and PTSD

When most of think of trauma a generally pretty dramatic picture comes to mind: a soldier returning from combat; a survivor of a natural disaster; a victim of abuse. For a combat veteran with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a crowded restaurant may be a very difficult place to manage when he/she is caught in the hypervigilance that helped him/her survive in combat. The soldier in effect finds himself or herself transported back to the battlefield, seeing the bustle of crowds, hearing the gunshots in the distance or IEDs exploding, feeling as if he or she is about to die.

Without treatment, these memories continue unabated, leading to the familiar symptoms of hypervigilance, nightmares, hallucinations, and estrangement. Disaster survivors or abuse victims, automobile crash survivors, or crime victims can experience an similar set up feelings from their traumatic experience.

There is, however, a less obvious, but no less debilitating form of trauma that can have pervasive negative effects on a person's life. Many of us have experienced physical or emotional neglect, witnessed parental conflict or abuse, been bullied or excessively teased, experienced the loss of a loved one, a humiliation or failure, or unresolved guilt. These experiences can leave lasting negative impressions and cause overwhelming feelings of guilt, self doubt, anxiety and loss of self esteem to stay with us and impair our ability to function in relationships, maintain motivation and focus, or even lead to physical problems.

Trauma is best understood as any experience of threat to an individual that is perceived as overwhelming. This overwhelming experience occurs repeatedly and without resolution or support. Trauma may result when our coping systems simply become overwhelmed. Our brain, instead of processing the experience, stows it away. We feel alone, isolated, and preoccupied with managing the symptoms of trauma such as guilt, depression, anxiety, eating disorders, addictions, and other psychological problems. Our quality of life suffers, and can suffer for years.

The most effective treatments for trauma related diagnosis are proving to be mindfulness-based therapy, such as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, and exposure therapy, such as Prolonged Exposure Therapy. Both treatment modalities are used by the Veterans Administration to treat PTSD in returning Veterans. I am trained in both treatment interventions and I can talk with you about how these treatments can help you. Give me a call or scroll down (or click here) to fill out the contact form below. I can answer your questions or set up a free consultation. I can set the appointment for my office, or in your home. Let me know how I can help you.