It’s been linked with drug addiction, eating disorders, compulsive sexual behavior and several other addictions. It comes in forms like physical abuse, sexual abuse, injury, war, the death of loved ones, physical/emotional pain and any other event that creates a deeply disturbing experience.
What is “it,” you ask?
One word: Trauma.
The Truth About Trauma
Trauma invades our lives unexpectedly and often leaves scars for a lifetime. Decades of study and treatment have examined the effects of trauma on a myriad of different people – military veterans, those struggling with addictions and victims of abuse, to name just a few.
Methods of treatment have evolved as more research emerged, revealing new insights into the causes and potential cures for trauma. Today, those of us suffering from a traumatic event can find relief through a variety of techniques. There is hope and, as we learn more about the effects of trauma, the future looks ever brighter.
If you or your loved one are struggling to get through the after-effects of trauma, take a look at the four treatment options listed below. Each offers a unique form of support in the healing process.
- Tool #1 Cognitive Therapy
This type of therapy reshapes your thinking about the trauma and its effects. The therapist helps you replace fearful and stressful thoughts with new healthier thoughts. You gain understanding that the traumatic event was not your fault. It teaches you methods of coping with feelings of anger, guilt and fear.
- Tool #2 EMDR
Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is a type of counseling that attempts to change your reaction to memories of your trauma. During this therapy, patients think and talk about their memories while focusing on a specific stimulus, such as a hand movement or tapping. Patients follow this stimulus with their eyes. Researchers believe this allows the patient to process and reassign disturbing feelings. The goal is to neutralize feelings of painful events to allow patients to heal and move on.
- Tool #3 Medication
Doctors have had some success with certain types of medication used to treat trauma. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) help adjust the chemicals in your brain to elevate mood. Those who have experienced trauma may not have enough of the chemical serotonin, making it harder to feel happy. SSRIs increase the level of serotonin, helping traumatized individuals feel less worried and sad. Examples of SSRIs include Prozac and Zoloft.
- Tool #4 Group Therapy
Talking with others who have had similar experiences is often helpful for healing from trauma. As you share, you become more comfortable talking about the experience. Others in the group can understand what you are going through and offer empathy. Through this therapy you learn to deal with the negative emotions that result from trauma and rebuild confidence and trust.
What’s the Best Method?
This is a question that’s still up for debate. Some research indicates that the therapies requiring patients to retell and re-experience traumatic emotions (exposure therapy) is not as healthy as once thought. In fact, this form of therapy may actually cause further trauma as a result of the person reliving the painful event.
On the other hand, we’ve seen research that indicates the catharsis of exposure therapy is helpful. Some even say it’s a necessary step that each of us must take before truly moving on.
Because traumatic experiences vary so greatly, we don’t have one simple solution that can be applied to every situation. Just like addiction treatment, we don’t have a singular cure for trauma or a step-by-step plan that works for everyone.
In the end, you have to be patient with yourself, open to working with your therapists and willing to embrace the treatment that’s right for you.
Remember: You deserve to heal and live life to the fullest.
Additional Reading: Thriving in Recovery: A New Approach to Tackling PTSD
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