Trauma & PTSD

It is important to understand what you could be going through, in order to deal and combat with it effectively. Trauma is an experience, that often is reserved for events that have been validated to induce high distress. Infact Trauma is a response to any event that may be distressing to an individual according to their subjective reality.

It could be:

  • Loss of loved one/relationship through separation/divorce/death
  • Childhood Neglect/abandonment
  • Witness to an accident
  • Physical/Sexual Assault
  • Chronic Illness
  • Bullying

“I don’t think I feel anything since that day, and it has been 2 years now. It feels numb and a void inside me which is eating me up inch by inch. No one knows what I am feeling because I don’t trust anyone anymore, says a 26 year old female to her counselor when the session was focused on recalling the traumatic memories of a physical assault that she had experienced by the hands of her colleagues.

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What Is PTSD?

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder also known as PTSD is a condition which is brought on when you undergo a traumatic event. PTSD can be caused either by experiencing or witnessing a threatening event. It can include either physical trauma such as sexual assault, natural disasters, military combat or emotional trauma such as neglect, abandonment, abuse in either childhood or as an adult.

Let us have a look at the signs and symptoms for PTSD

There are 4 types of symptoms, but they may not be identical for everyone. Each person experiences symptoms in their own way.

Flashbacks - Overwhelming and unwelcome memories of the trauma can come up at any time. They can make you feel extremely anxious and scared because they have a feel that the event is happening right now at this very moment. Flashbacks can also come in the form of nightmares or troubling dreams. At times trigger for these flashbacks can be found in your day to day general activities as- seeing a movie in which the protagonist is suffering through trauma that you have gone through or hearing a car backfire might bring back memories of gunfire for a combat Veteran.

Avoiding possible trigger inducing events - You may try to avoid certain people or situations that may act as a reminder of the event. Isolating yourself in order to not become overwhelmed or inability to experience anything due to feeling numb can also be possible signs after a traumatic event. A person who was assaulted in the college will often bunk the lectures.

Experiencing hyperarousal - Feeling jittery or always on the edge is also observed in PTSD. Issues with sleep or concentration as you are always on the lookout for danger. For example, getting startled by loud noise if someone who was physically assaulted.

Feeling negative about your surroundings - You might find it hard to trust people around you and feel that the world is a dangerous place. Feeling negative about yourself and about the people around you during PTSD is common. It might become difficult to enjoy the things that you used to once upon a time. Sense of guilt and shame may be strong, you may be trying to beat yourself for not having done to enough to save yourself. Maintaining your relationship can seem challenging. Having issues with your memories where you might be unable to remember parts of the traumatic event can become frustrating.

Post the trauma you may try to cope up in your own ways of either avoiding thinking about it, taking the help of drugs or alcohol to block out the memories and negative experiences, may indulge in impulsive acts such as leaving your work or the place where you use to live etc. However these are just temporary solutions and represent a maladaptive way of coping. It is natural to not want to have the painful feelings and memories of the trauma again and again, however numbing yourself or trying to fight them only makes it worse. Despite locking them away they will come rushing back when you are too tired to hold the guard anymore. They will harm you, your relationship and your well- being along with the quality of your life.

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Counseling Structure

First Session-In a typical PTSD counseling session the counselor will provide a safe and non-judgemental atmosphere for you to share your experiences. The counselors are aware that it is tough for you to open up and reach for help hence they go at a pace where you feel comfortable with counseling. In the first session the counselor will undertake the essential details about you and a therapeutic relationship is established. The rapport is formed in this first stage. Goals for your counseling is set up in accordance with you.

Trauma re-experienced– In order to for the counseling sessions to proceed your counselor will encourage you to recall and process the details of the trauma, what you had felt then and what were your thoughts. This is done in order to reduce the power these memories have. The counselor before doing this will make sure you are ready to do it.

Work on accompanying signs- The counselor also will make an assessment to look for any additional signs that you may have due to PTSD. The work on panic attacks, low mood, extreme mood swings. crying episodes, motivation, sleep, appetite is also undertaken simultaneously.

Mixture of techniques- A counselor will also employ techniques which will be tailor made according to the signs of PTSD you have.

  • - Trauma based Cognitive Behaviour therapy- in which the thoughts are being reconstructed of the traumatic events ,
  • - Emotion Focused therapy- where the counselor will help you process the strong negative emotions,
  • - Exposure therapy -where in a safe environment you may revisit the events of trauma in order to minimize the impact, this is done with caution and under professional watch.
  • - If the PTSD signs are impacting your work and relationship then the counselor can also help you work on them in trauma treatment.
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Homework and assignments will also be given in order to improve your functioning on a daily basis.

What can you expect from counseling sessions

  • - Relieving your PTSD symptoms
  • - Getting rid of the flashbacks
  • - Being able to control the anxiety and depression you experience
  • - Ability to develop self- care routines
  • - Healthy coping strategies regarding expected or anticipated stresses
  • - Improved mental and emotional strength in dealing with future stressful events
  • - Being able to manage your relationships effectively

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