Abuse & Trauma
What are they? Trauma is a deeply distressing or disturbing experience. Abuse is the treatment of a person or an animal with cruelty or violence, especially regularly or repeatedly.
Abuse and trauma don’t have to result in long standing difficulties. When an event affects someone’s ability to cope without support to help them understand what is happening, then these experiences can have lifelong effects. Anxiety and depression can develop. Irrational fears or behaviors, nightmares and startle responses to everyday experiences can occur. This is what is known as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Some of the most severe forms of PTSD come from experiences in war, when military are exposed to violence, destruction, and even death. But PTSD can be the result of more mundane experiences, for example a child being bitten by a dog. If a parent or other caring adult were there to soothe the child, perhaps saying “Oh that was scary, but it’s okay now,” it is unlikely the child would be traumatized. But if the child were alone with no one to help him to understand what happened, the child would stay away from all dogs and perhaps develop PTSD.
What is PTSD? Do I have it?
There are four types of PTSD symptoms:
1. Reliving the event. Through memories, you may feel the same horror you did when the event took place through:
- triggers caused by a sound, a sight, or a smell that causes you to relive the event. News reports, seeing an accident, or hearing a car backfire are examples of triggers.
2. Avoiding situations that remind you of the event. You may avoid:
- talking or thinking about the event.
- crowds because they feel dangerous.
- driving if you were in a car accident or your military convoy was bombed.
- seeking help because it keeps you from having to think or talk about the event.
3. Negative changes in beliefs and feelings. This symptom includes:
- not having positive or loving feelings toward other people and avoiding relationships.
- blocking out parts of the traumatic event or not being able to talk about them.
- thinking the world is completely dangerous and no one can be trusted.
4. Feeling keyed up or on edge. You may:
- be edgy or always on the alert and lookout for danger.
- suddenly become angry or irritable.
- have a hard time sleeping.
- have trouble concentrating.
- be startled by a loud noise or surprise.
- want to have your back to a wall in a restaurant or waiting room.
Trauma doesn’t have to define your life.
While the experiences you have lived through will never be erased, in therapy it is possible for them to become a part of your life story — distant memories, no longer controlling your daily life. You can be freed up to experience life as it is, not life as it once was or you are afraid it will be again.
You can benefit from a research driven method for helping people with PTSD.
That method is called Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). The Veterans Administration describes EMDR as “one of the most effective talk therapies for PTSD.” I have trained extensively to use this method with positive effect.
Changing the memories that form the way we see ourselves also changes the way we view others. Therefore, our relationships, job performance, what we are willing to do or are able to resist, all move in a positive direction.
Francine Shapiro, originator and developer of EMDR