For many years, reaction to traumatic events was overlooked as a cause of depression, anxiety and phobia, but as our understanding of how shock can affect behaviour and psychology increases, it is now more widely recognised that unresolved trauma can have a major and long-lasting impact on someone's future life and the way in which they react to certain triggers.
The same event could affect people in different ways, depending on their underlying levels of resilience, stress levels, and previous experiences, so just as there is no hard and fast rule about how trauma will affect someone, there is no 'one size fits all' therapy to deal with the effects of a traumatic experience. Mental health professionals who are specifically trained in supporting trauma victims will formulate a plan for each person indivindually.
Typical reactions may include:
- Shock and denial
- Sadness and despair
- Unpredictable and irrational reactions
- Physical symptoms such as nausea and headaches
- Guilt and shame
- Feelings of isolation and hopelessness
- Extreme controlling behaviours such as OCD, eating disorders or attempts to control a partner
Some of the most common therapies include:
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) teaches people to be more aware of their thoughts and feelings regarding the traumatic event and view them in a more positive way by reprogramming their brain to react differently to triggers.
Vivo Exposure Therapy is a form of CBT which focusses on the perceived fears surrounding a trigger and uses various methods which force the sufferer to confront the worst possible scenario to undermine the sense of catasphrophe and reduce anxiety caused by the trigger.
Psychodynamic Therapy (Talking Therapy) uses verbal communication to analyse the a person's inbuilt strength to find ways of reducing emotional pain and fear and embed techniques and thought patterns to enable problem management and adapting to new circumstances.
The above approaches deal with the memory portion of the trauma, but most therapists will use one of more of the above techniques in conjunction with some relaxation techniques, EMDR and mindfulness in order to assist the processes of reconnection between body and mind and reduce physical symptoms of trauma.
Once the specific trauma support has started to be embedded, it is often useful for sufferers to incorporate some grounding exercises into their theraputic plan. These can be useful to keep the mind and body connected and distract the sufferer from reliving anxious memories and are good tools to have access to when confronted with events which trigger potentially harmful memories and flashbacks. Grounding exercises help to keep your mind firmly in the present
Remind yourself who you are: Say your name, say how old you are, say where you are now, say what you have just done, say what you are about to do, say one positive thing about yourself. Do this over and over again until you feel calmer.
Take ten breaths. With each breath, focus on the feelings of the air coming in through your nose and out through your mouth. Count each breath as you exhale. When you have finished, start again and try to make each breath slower than the last until you feel calmer.
Splash water on your face.
Rub the palms of your hand together until they feel hot. Then place them over your eyes. Notice the heat transferring from your hands to your eyes and the sensations that this produces.
Hold a cold bottle, can or glass in your hands, noticing the coldness and the wetness transfer to your hands. Take small sips 10 seconds apart. Try to breathe deeply as you count.
Notice everything that is touching your skin; the clothes on your body, your hair touching your head or face, the ground under your feet, the chair under you if you are sitting. Notice the sensation of how these things feel against your skin or pressing into your body. Squeeze the first and forefinger together, one hand after another. Try to slow down the rhythm of changing hands and breathe in time with the change.
Stop and notice your surroundings. Mentally list 5 things that you can see, 4 things that you can hear, 3 things that you can feel, 2 things that you can smell and 1 thing that you can taste. Breathe deeply between each thing that you list. Try to slow down the frequency of each breath as you list.
Don't suffer in silence - seek support and be free from the pain of trauma!
CCC has therapists who are qualified and experienced in offering truama support to individuals and groups. If something affects you or a group of people at your workplace, contact CCC to find out how we can support your staff and minimise the impact on the individual and your business.