Trauma: What s it? What Causes It? And How Do We Treat It?

According to SAMHA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) trauma is “resulting from an event, series of events, or a set of circumstances that is experienced by an individual as physically or emotionally harmful or life threatening and that has lasting adverse effects on the individuals functioning and mental, physical, social, emotional or spiritual wellbeing”. Integrated Listening.com describes trauma as “a deeply distressing or disturbing event that overwhelms an individual’s ability to cope, causes feelings of hopelessness and diminishes sense of self and one’s ability to feel a full range of emotions and experiences”. There are three types of trauma, acute (resulting from a single incident, chronic (repeated or prolonged incidences such as domestic violence) and complex (exposure to varied and multiple traumatic events which are usually invasive and interpersonal in nature).

Trauma can be caused by several different types of experiences such as natural events, witnessing different events/accidents, sudden death of someone close to you, poverty, bullying, violence in all forms, childbirth, being kidnapped, childhood or adult sexual abuse, physical violence, and or emotional abuse. Every person reacts to life situations differently, with some being able to work through events experienced in a healthy manner and without having serious long term emotional effects. However, others may struggle long term and need help in working through their symptoms. The effects of trauma on infants within the first 1000 days of life can be detrimental. Research is showing that there are developmental effects to the brain in the areas responsible for cognitive functions that negatively impact short term memory and emotional regulation.

According to SAMHA 70% of the population will experience some form of a traumatic event in their lifetime, while 20% of them will develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. PTSD is a psychological disorder that can last for several months to years. The person may experience physical and emotional symptoms such as, flashbacks, nightmares, hypervigilance, exaggerated startle response, reckless or destructive behaviors, extreme irritability, confusion, avoidance of situations, triggering of unwanted memories, anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation, feeling unsafe, and substance abuse/addiction. If treatment can be initiated shortly after a traumatic event occurs, it can lessen the possibility that the person will experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Some occupations are more prone to trauma experiences and PTSD such as law enforcement, firefighters, soldiers, healthcare workers, journalists, and first responders. This is why critical incident debriefings are so very important for people to receive after they have experienced a traumatic situation, so that the events can be processed and worked through before they lead into PTSD. Typically, if one experiences a traumatic event and their symptoms have not subsided within 4 to 6 weeks’ intervention is recommended to avoid prolonged, long term effects. Trauma can be diagnosed through gathering a client’s history including current symptoms, along with different clinical assessment tools along with client self-report tools.

There are many different forms of treatment for trauma that can be used in a single manner or interchangeably, depending on what the individual’s symptoms and needs are. Some of the common treatments include but are not limited to Psychotherapy, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Somatic Experiencing, Touch Therapies, Trauma Informed Care, Psychopharmacological Treatment, Prolonged Exposure Therapy, Stress Inoculation Training, Mindfulness, balanced lifestyle, positive support system and exercise, to name a few.

It’s important to remember that one’s reactions to trauma are normal for an abnormal situation. Many people feel like they are “going crazy” after they experience a traumatic event, when in fact they are not. If you have experienced a traumatic event that you have not been able to recover from please get yourself help, it is treatable and recovery is possible. You can contact Family service at The Chautauqua Region at 716-488-1971, or any other mental health agencies to receive the proper treatment for the situation.


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