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Overcoming trauma

Re-establishing the routine of daily life, after trauma

If you’ve been following the news lately, you’ll know that a group of teenage boys and their coach have been trapped in a partially flooded cave system in northern Thailand. While everyone involved in rescue efforts are doing their best to keep the spirits of those trapped as high as possible, it’s very likely that the boys and their coach will need to deal with the psychological impacts of trauma, for some time to come.

Survivors of such incidents can begin to experience trauma symptoms immediately, or months after the event – it all depends on how the individual in question processes their emotions and life experiences. Trauma sufferers commonly experience recurring images, scenes, nightmares, flashbacks or disruptive feelings. Or they experience distressing memories that remain ‘frozen’ within their neurobiological system.

When this happens, we recommend Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) to help the individual change the meaning associated with such events and integrate their emotions. Again, depending on how trauma symptoms evolve, we may combine EMDR with other therapies, for effective healing that lasts.

I seem to have the above symptoms, yet I didn’t go through such an event – could I be dealing with trauma?

Yes, it’s entirely possible to have trauma trapped within your nervous system from what one would call a ‘normal life’ – which means, you haven’t experienced anything major like a car accident, or been trapped in a cave as we’ve discussed above.

Trauma can build up due to constant stress over a long period of time. Say, for example, you’re caring for a loved one who is constantly on the brink of dying. This is a life situation where you have no time for yourself and your nervous system is in a constant state of high-alert, as you might need to call an ambulance at any moment.

Another example, is of a young person who is constantly on high-alert because their parents argue frequently, or perhaps their parent frequently takes out their emotions on them.

Constantly being on high-alert, in flight-or-flight mode or in a state of panic, is extremely costly to the nervous system. This kind of trauma, also known as complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (cPTSD), pushes your nervous system into a state where it’s permanently “on”. Such people frequently experience anxiety, panic, anger and hyperactivity. When your system can’t cope anymore and it switches “off”, you’ll then experience chronic fatigue, depression and lethargy. Some people simply do not know what the experience of self-regulation feels like, and so live their lives fluctuating between “on” and “off” states.

So how does a healthy nervous system behave?

Say, for example, you’re driving and you have to suddenly slam on the brakes. It’s quite likely your body will give you a burst of fight-or-flight energy to react quickly and keep your car safe. A healthy nervous system will recover naturally after a burst of fight-or-flight energy has been used. A healthy nervous system knows how to relax and forget about the event once you are safe. It self-regulates and operates comfortably somewhere between its “on” and “off” states.

We’ve helped countless people get through traumatic events, PTSD and complex PTSD, in addition to a wide range of associated conditions that are sometimes unearthed by the original trauma at hand. If you would like to discuss how you process trauma with a qualified professional, then please do contact us for a confidential chat.