If you are like most adults, you have probably heard of a common psychological disorder known as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It is a disorder that frequently strikes combat veterans, accident victims, and victims of violent crimes. However, did you know there is a lot more to psychological trauma than just PTSD?
In a general sense, trauma can be either physical or psychological. Trauma is defined as a condition in which the body or mind is overwhelmed by some external influence. An example of physical trauma would be the broken bones resulting from a traffic accident. Physical trauma is easy to observe and diagnose for obvious reasons. Psychological trauma is not so black and white.
Cases of psychological trauma are the direct result of a person’s mind and emotions being overwhelmed to the point of affecting the way the person thinks. A person suffering from psychological trauma may begin to question his/her belief system, develop trust issues, and even question his/her own sanity. Much of it depends on the particular event or events that triggered the trauma and how the victim copes with memories of those events.
Physical trauma left untreated can lead to disease and death. Untreated psychological trauma is no different. A person suffering from PTSD or another form of psychological trauma can gradually become socially withdrawn, depressed or anxious, prone to alcohol or drug addiction, prone to paranoia and, in the most severe cases, even violent and/or suicidal. Psychological trauma is nothing to fool around with.
What are the symptoms of psychological trauma? There are quite a few. The most pronounced symptoms recognised by experts are as follows:
- anxiety, depression or alternating periods of both
- unusually high levels of stress
- insomnia, usually related to nightmares or bad memories
- flashbacks of the event or events that caused the trauma
- loss of self-esteem and self-confidence
- emotional detachment, social withdrawal
- self-medication with alcohol, illicit drugs, or prescription medications.
It is important to understand that the symptoms of psychological trauma might appear almost immediately after the traumatic event in question or, as is often the case with PTSD, they may take weeks, months, or years to show themselves. This makes treating psychological trauma somewhat challenging.
The most important thing to remember is that psychological trauma should not be ignored. If you feel as if your life has been permanently altered by some traumatic event in the past, please seek help from BlueSkies or another agency. If you notice the symptoms listed above in the life of a loved one, talk to that person about the potential of psychological trauma. If necessary, call us for help.
As frightening and debilitating as psychological trauma can be, it is a very treatable condition that enjoys fairly high success rates. Treatment is often a combination of counselling therapies and medications, administered together in order to help manage emotions and physical symptoms until the patient is able to work through the trauma. A successful treatment can result in permanently overcoming the disorder.
One of the most successful treatments currently in use today is known as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). This is a counselling therapy that seeks to address the original cause of the trauma so that strategies for overcoming can be developed. The unique aspect of this treatment is that it is not open-ended. It is a clearly defined treatment with 12 to 15 steps established by the therapist during the initial stages. A patient gradually works his/her way through the steps until all are completed. At that point, the patient is equipped with the necessary skills to overcome through controlled thoughts and behaviours.
BlueSkies utilises CBT as well as a full range of additional therapies to help trauma patients overcome. Please know there is help and hope available when you contact us. With the right treatment and support, you can achieve victory over the traumatic events of the past.