Trauma and its impact
What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear of someone having experienced ‘trauma’? In current times, it is likely that you think of ‘PTSD’. PTSD, or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder has been given much attention in the media.
Often the focus is on army veterans, rather than the general public. However, most of us have had traumatic experiences, some of us repeatedly and/ or in severe forms.
PTSD can develop following any ‘traumatic event’, e.g. motor vehicle accidents, assaults, targeted abuse and medical emergencies. Even from hearing about a close friend getting hurt in an accident.
Its symptoms include intrusive (‘out-of-nowhere’) memories, flashbacks (‘as if it’s happening right now’) and significant changes in one’s life, often made in order to prevent it happening again.
Its impact is severely debilitating and requires treatment.
Not all trauma leads to the development of PTSD, though.
Most people (75-85%) who experience trauma do not develop PTSD. Thanks to the resilient nature of our minds we have great potential for natural recovery. Many people return to full health, physically and emotionally, without a need for professional help. In fact, treatment for PTSD must never start too soon after an event, as that can do more harm than good.
Of the people, who do need treatment, most have developed chronic depression and/ or anxiety, rather than PTSD.
Why do some people become unwell while others do not?
Many factors play into the development of mental illness. Social & economic circumstances, appropriate attention at the right time, social supports and people to fall back on when family members cannot help.
Whatever the environment in which we grow up, research suggests that our main vulnerability lies in how we think about what happened to us. And how much.
Rumination is the process of repeatedly rehashing specific stories about our lives, ourselves or our past. Repeatedly thinking through why something happened and what it meant for our lives or who we are has been shown to be the main factor in the maintenance of symptoms.
Mental health illness may show up as chronic or recurring depression, excessive worry & anxiety or more specific fears, for example of being in open spaces or meeting new people.
What do we do about it?
Specific disorders can benefit from targeted, evidence-based treatments: when PTSD is diagnosed, we have a few options, while depression and anxiety (with or without PTSD ) require specific (cognitive-behavioral) therapy. CMAP Health therapists have extensive training and experience in treating the consequences of trauma, following international guidelines on what works best for whom.
About the Author:
Kirstine Postma is a UK trained Clinical Psychologist with over 20 years of professional experience. She provides psychological assessment and interventions for a wide variety of difficulties, including post-traumatic stress, anxiety and mood disorders, and certain personality disorders. She offers Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) and EMDR, as well as several other evidence-based therapies.