Have you ever wondered why two individuals with very similar circumstances can respond to a traumatic event completely differently? I have. Have you ever wondered why you suffer and a friend or buddy may not? I have.
With these question I set out to research and explore what causes those differences, and why some people recovery quickly and others are affected their whole life. By the end of this article you should have a better understanding of trauma, how it affects the psyche, and most importantly, what to do about it if you are struggling.
Something I want people who read this article to come away with is that Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is really not a Disorder. It is actually an injury. When one views it as an injury the ability to recover from it becomes much easier. The stigma is removed. It would be better referred to as PTSI, Post Traumatic Stress Injury. Trauma results from an event, series of events or circumstances that is experienced by an individual as physically and/or emotionally harmful or threatening to life, plus this experience has a long lasting adverse affect on an individual's ability to function physically, socially, emotionally or spiritually.
Trauma produces a neurochemical response in the brain and nervous system that becomes long-lasting. The two neurochemicals that are elevated are nor-epinephrine and epinephrine. In essence it is a perfectly normal response to trauma, it activates the sympathetic nerve system which is responsible for activities that prepare the body for action, responses that serve to fight off or retreat from danger. This is known as the fight, flight, or freeze reaction. This neurochemical response can create and sustain the many behavioral issues related to trauma such as withdrawal, isolation and avoidance, substance-abuse, anger, violence, irrational behavior, hyper-vigilance, sleep disturbances, depression and so on. When large quantities of epinephrin (also know as adrenaline) are present in the blood stream, they cause the brain to perceive a negative event much more vividly then if the hormones are not present. The key to recovery is learning how to reprogram your brain, and begin to have the appropriate emotional responses to everyday events.
Currently, to receive a diagnosis of PTSD it is based on 8 criteria from the DSM-5.
The first DSM criterion has 4 components, as follows:
The second criterion involves the persistent re-experiencing of the event in 1 of several ways:
Unlike adults, children re-experience the event through repetitive play rather than through perception.
The third criterion involves avoidance of stimuli that are associated with the trauma and numbing of general responsiveness, as determined by the presence of 1 or both of the following:
The fourth criterion is 2 or more of the following symptoms of negative alterations in mem0ry and mood associated with the traumatic event(s):
The fifth criterion is marked alterations in arousal and reactivity, as evidenced by 2 or more of the following:
The remaining 3 criteria are as follows:
An individual's reaction to trauma depends on a lot of things including their resiliency skills, coping strategies, social environment, background and personality characteristics. It is not the traumatic event itself that produces a long-lasting effect, but it's how the individual experiences it, how the event is processed in the brain and the persons unique characteristics.
In all my reading I was trying to find out why two people who experienced the same event could have drastically different responses. I stumbled on one of the most intriguing facts not talked about much with PTSI. The root or foundation of post-traumatic stress disorder is likely childhood family betrayal. Recent studies show that childhood trauma was a strong predictor of the likelihood of developing post-traumatic stress disorder (injury) after a traumatic event. The three childhood issues center around:
What happens with childhood trauma is people develop long-term unresolved issues related to loss of trust. This means people form long-term experiences related to emotional pain.
The major goal of trauma treatment needs to be recovery. I use a saying that says; healing doesn't mean that the trauma never existed, healing means the trauma no longer controls your life". Recovery is the process of regaining control.
In recovery there are essentially two quite different schools of thought and treatment philosophies as it pertains to trauma recovery. One school of thought is the trauma experiences need to be explained, explored and somehow reprocessed. The traumatic events are usually detailed several times over the course of treatment with insight, reflection and the client sometimes reliving the traumatic experiences by writing them down, explaining them in detail and sometimes talking to other people.
The other school of thought primarily focuses on activities that assist in the process of recovery, which means regaining control. These processes include building resilience, developing more effective coping strategies, focusing on the present, forgiveness, moving beyond the trauma-making it less relevant. This approach is the approach I prefer, and seems to give people a wonderful step in their recovery.
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