Throughout our lives we encounter a vast range of experiences and many can indelibly ink themselves into our memories whether pleasant or unpleasant. Unpleasant and harmful experiences can often create symptoms of trauma that can stay with us for some time. Read more …..
These symptoms can include: –
- Intrusive memories
- Physical reactions if reminded of the event such as heart racing, increased breathing, sweating etc..
- Increased safety behaviours such as avoidance, needing to be close to others,
- Reduced short term memory
- Being detached from life
- Being demotivated
- Anger outbursts
- Feeling vulnerable
We have a normal recovery process when we experience something traumatic. Rather like a physical injury, it takes time to heal and the bigger the injury, the longer it may take. With physical injuries, we are often given a timescale and can see and feel the improvements which gives us a greater sense of control.
Following a traumatic event, shock is often experienced first where it can take us up to 72 hours to even begin to process what has happened. In the first 72 hours, it’s important to not make any rash decisions and to ensure that you are safe.
Shock, also known as Acute Stress Response, has symptoms of numbing, derealisation, detachment and depersonalisation. All these are symptoms that distance us from the activating event and this is necessary in the short term to allow us to begin to comprehend what has happened before we can start to overcome the trauma.
In the following 4 weeks, we often process a great deal where many of the symptoms begin to get less. Giving ourselves time with no other interventions can often be enough for us to process the trauma where the symptoms diminish to a minimal level. Timescales in overcoming traumas can vary greatly depending on what happened, the consequences, the person’s coping mechanisms and many other factors. It can take up to 2 years and should there be little change in 9 to 12 months, it is likely that we’re stuck in trauma and may benefit from some support to help create some movement.
How can we overcome trauma if we’re stuck?
Symptoms of trauma can affect our lives massively from us taking avoidant action over everyday tasks to withdrawing from our social world and other activities.
Should this not happen, we may begin to suffer with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and this is where we can feel stuck and feel a range of symptoms. There are a number of theories relating to PTSD and NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) recommend a talking therapy such as CBT to help alleviate the symptoms and overcome trauma.
CBT based counselling can be very effective to allow us to process the event, face our anxieties (in a safe and often stepped manner), create more balanced thinking, gain a greater sense of control and observe a subsidence in symptoms. Talking about what happened in a safe environment allows our mind to make sense of what has happened. If we’ve had flashbacks or nightmares, this indicates that our unconscious mind has been seeking to process the trauma and shortly after the event, it is viewed as a healthy sign. This processing helps us put the past behind us. Being able to have greater control of our thinking patterns can help too. Often our emotions will spiral and as this happens the logical side of our mind is not engaged which can encourage our thoughts and emotions to spiral even further. CBT can help us to engage our rational side, creating more balanced thoughts and emotions.