Trauma is the experience of severe psychological distress following any traumatizing or life-threatening event. Traumatic experiences often result in strong, disturbing feelings that may or may not go away on their own. Immediately following the traumatic event, it is normal to experience shock or denial. Someone may undergo a wide range of emotional reactions, such as fear, anger, guilt, and shame. Feelings of helplessness and vulnerability are also common.
People who have experienced trauma may have ongoing problems with sleep or physical pain, encounter turbulence in their relationships, and even feel a decreased sense of self-worth caused by the overwhelming amount of stress.
Although the traumatic event may overpower a person’s coping skills at the time, it is always possible to develop new healthy ways of coping with the experience, diminishing its effects. Research on trauma identifies several healthy ways of coping, such as avoiding alcohol and drugs, seeing loved ones regularly, exercising, sleeping, and paying attention to self-care. In addition to healthy coping resources, there are also many different, amazing therapies available to help someone process and recover from their trauma. One of those therapies is Accelerated Resolution Therapy® (ART), which utilizes rapid eye movements to help reprogram traumatic memories.
What is Trauma?
Trauma is an emotional response to a terrible, disturbing event, such as an accident, assault or natural disaster. Approximately 60% of men and 50% of women experience at least one trauma or traumatic experience during their lifetime. Women are more likely to experience sexual assault and child sexual abuse, while men are more likely to experience accidents, physical assault, combat, disaster, death, or injury. There are several symptoms someone who experiences trauma may display, such as:
- Emotions such as sadness, anger, denial, fear, and shame
- Emotional outbursts
- Insomnia or altered sleep patterns
- Difficulty with relationships
- Gastrointestinal problems
Many of these feelings are a normal part of the recovery process after experiencing or witnessing something traumatic. When people think of trauma, many times they think it is something that would never happen to them; they just assume they are immune from trauma. However, it is important to remember that trauma does not discriminate as it can happen to anyone, anywhere, and at any time. Over time, these symptoms can begin to affect an individual’s daily activities and potentially lead to psychological disorders such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
PTSD can develop after a very stressful, frightening or distressing event, or after a prolonged traumatic experience. PTSD can happen to anyone at any time and currently affects roughly 3.5% of the population in the United States. Also, it is estimated that nearly 7 or 8 out of every 100 people will experience PTSD at some point in their lives, with women being twice as likely as men. While not everyone who experiences a traumatic experience develops PTSD, those who do are by no means weak; PTSD is not a sign of weakness.
There are three categories of symptoms associated with PTSD which include:
- Reliving the event through recurring nightmares or other intrusive images that occur randomly at any time. Typically reliving the event will result in extreme emotional or physical reactions such as chills, heart palpitations, or panic when faced with reminders of the event.
- Being on guard or hyper-aroused at times, including feeling sudden anger or irritability, having difficulty sleeping or a lack of concentration, and being overly alert and easily startled.
- Avoiding reminders of the trauma including places, people, thoughts, or other activities that can be associated with the event.
PTSD when left untreated can lead to a variety of serious symptoms, including:
- Anger management issues: For some people, the moments of recurring stress and anxiety lead to outbursts of anger or rage. This can result in child or spousal abuse or even public violence.
- Severe depression: Serious depression is always a risk for people suffering from PTSD. Many sufferers may demonstrate suicidal thoughts or actions while in the midst of a PTSD episode.
- Loneliness: PTSD can potentially make a person very difficult to be around and is often undiagnosed. Individuals with the diagnoses may end up isolated and alone, because others may not want to be around them.
Many people who are exposed to a traumatic event will experience at least one of the symptoms listed above. For a person to be diagnosed with PTSD, symptoms must last for more than one month. Many individuals develop symptoms within the first three months following a trauma, but symptoms can start to show up even later. While these symptoms are serious and can have a huge effect on a person’s life, with proper treatment those who have experienced trauma can feel normal again.
Early Intervention and Treatment is Crucial
After experiencing trauma, a person may feel like they will never be able to recover from what they have gone through. However, there is always hope. There are treatments available, such as Accelerated Resolution Therapy® (ART), available to help a person return to their daily life.
Intervene as soon as possible on behalf of someone suffering from trauma and/or PTSD. Uncharacteristic behaviors can become increasingly destructive. Over time, buried and suppressed memories become more and more powerful.
Accelerated Resolution Therapy® (ART) is an innovative, evidence-based therapy for PTSD, anxiety, depression, stress, and similar mental health issues. Initially, the therapy was primarily used to help veterans suffering from PTSD. One of the major advantages of the therapy is the speed at which ART is able to bring relief. Generally, only one to five sessions are needed, not months or years of expensive psychiatric treatment.
Accelerated Resolution Therapy works by reprogramming the traumatic memories that are preventing a person from enjoying the full life they deserve. The techniques work equally well on anyone suffering from trauma, regardless of the type of trauma experienced. Trauma, at the end of the day, is still trauma. Contact ART International to learn more about posttraumatic growth with ART or to find a therapist near you.
ART International Training and Research Inc. is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing access to Accelerated Resolution Therapy® (ART) for individuals suffering from trauma and other mental health diagnoses through innovative research and clinician training and education.