Healing Trauma: Navigating PTSD

Exposure to trauma can create serious mental health challenges, including the development of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Trauma-specialized care with All Ways Hope Counseling Center can help you heal from trauma, and improve PTSD symptoms and your overall quality of life.

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Overview

Trauma happens when you experience something unbearable and do not feel supported or equipped enough to cope with it. A traumatic experience can be either a terrifying one-time event such as an assault, vehicle accident, or natural disaster or a series of repeated “minor” offenses, such as frequent verbal abuse early in life.

Trauma affects all people differently. What one person might consider a difficult but manageable event might be particularly painful and traumatic for you. At All Ways Hope Counseling Center, we offer a supportive and non-judgmental space for you to address the traumatic experiences you may have encountered. We take into account the context of your individual experience and how it currently affects you.

An image of open hands releasing butterflies into the sky at sunset, symbolizing healing and transformation. Reach out to Rosie Buzatu at All Ways Hope Counseling Center to begin your journey towards recovery and well-being.

Mental health struggles such as depression, anxiety, compulsive overthinking, difficulty making decisions, sleep disturbances, low energy and motivation, and irritation can sometimes be traced back to traumatic experiences. Additionally, people who have experienced trauma might find it difficult to form healthy relationships, maintain employment, or feel an overall sense of unease in life.

Symptoms of trauma

Decreased ability to function in daily life: Trauma can negatively impact your capacity to absorb and process new information, as it can cause you to feel threatened by unfamiliar things. This survival mechanism is helpful in situations that warrant it, but when you are no longer in danger, it can be difficult to disengage from this hypervigilance. This can greatly affect your day-to-day functioning and ability to move forward.

Mental health challenges: Trauma can increase your risk of developing mental health-related issues such as depression and anxiety. Additionally, the effects of trauma can interfere with executive functioning skills, such as your ability to prioritize, manage your time, maintain a healthy routine, and succeed professionally.

Unhealthy behaviors: Multiple studies have confirmed the correlation between exposure to trauma and the development of unhealthy or dysfunctional behaviors.

Dysfunctional avoidance” is when a person engages in unhealthy activities in order to avoid unpleasant feelings or experiences. These activities often include engaging in substance abuse and problematic or self-harming behaviors

If you struggle with unhealthy fixations or practices relating to food, sex, substances, or technology, you may be struggling with unrecognized and unresolved trauma. Fortunately, working to heal your trauma can also help you work on and resolve these maladaptive behaviors.

Physical health ramifications: Trauma can have significant effects on your physical health, often manifesting as chronic health conditions and increased susceptibility to illness. The persistent stress and dysregulation of the body’s stress response systems associated with trauma can contribute to inflammation, weakened immune function, and heightened risk of cardiovascular disease.

Additionally, children who experience trauma are at increased risk of developing cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular issues, and obesity.

Trauma and PTSD

Experiencing a traumatic event such as sexual assault can inflict profound emotional and psychological wounds. However, it is important to distinguish between the event itself and the mental health struggles that can emerge afterward.

The trauma of such an event can set off a cascade of reactions in your mind and body. Initially, there might be shock, disbelief, and feelings of numbness as your mind struggles to process what happened. Over time though, an even deeper impact may emerge, namely, the development of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

PTSD is a psychological condition that can develop after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event. It’s more than just a natural reaction to a distressing situation; it is a persistent and debilitating condition that can endure long after the event itself has passed.

Symptoms of PTSD

PTSD can manifest in many different ways; however, there are a few core symptoms that are often used to identify PTSD. These include:

  • Flashbacks transport you back to the traumatic moment, making you feel as though you’re reliving it all over again.
  • Sleep disturbances can include nightmares or insomnia, leading to chronic fatigue.
  • Hypervigilance can leave you constantly on edge, always aware of potential threats in your surroundings.
  • Avoidance behaviors may develop as you try to evade anything reminiscent of the trauma. This can lead to social withdrawal and isolation.
  • Intrusive thoughts can invade your mind, leaving you with unwanted memories or distressing thoughts that persistently intrude into consciousness.
  • Emotional numbness can leave you feeling disconnected or detached from others and experiencing a sense of emptiness.
  • Difficulty concentrating can make it hard to focus or complete tasks.
  • Irritability and aggression can provoke sudden outbursts of rage, often triggered by reminders of the trauma.
  • Physical symptoms can include headaches, stomach aches, muscle tension, dizziness, chest pain, and gastrointestinal issues.

Distinguishing between anxiety and PTSD

At first glance, the symptoms of PTSD can often resemble those of anxiety disorders. People who struggle with PTSD may experience persistent feelings of unease, worry, and apprehension, all of which are hallmark features of anxiety. However, when these symptoms are the result of one or more traumatic experiences, they may be more accurately classified as PTSD symptoms, rather than general anxiety.

Persistent hypervigilance, for example, may be more than a generalized sense of nervousness, but instead, a heightened state of alertness borne out of the need to anticipate and fend off potential threats. The same goes for other symptoms such as avoidance behaviors, intrusive thoughts, and irritability. While people who struggle with anxiety certainly experience these, the underlying cause may be vastly different in someone with PTSD.

Distinguishing between anxiety and PTSD is crucial for providing effective and tailored treatment approaches. An accurate diagnosis can ensure that you receive appropriate intervention and support. Moreover, by understanding that your symptoms are the result of PTSD and not anxiety, your therapist can take care to recognize, validate, and consider the trauma causing them.

Causes and risk factors

The likelihood of developing PTSD can be influenced by many different factors, from genetic to environmental to psychological variables. These may include: 

Genetic predispositions may make you more susceptible to the effects of trauma and the development of mental health conditions like PTSD.

Early life experiences, familial support systems, and socioeconomic status can shape the way you cope with and respond to trauma.

Community support and access to mental health resources influence the way a traumatic experience might affect you.

Repeated exposure to traumatic experiences can overwhelm your coping mechanisms and make it easier to develop PTSD.

Your perception of personal control and agency can impact the way you process and heal from trauma. Feelings of powerlessness can exacerbate PTSD symptoms.

Treatment

All Ways Hope Counseling Center offers a range of effective treatment methods so that you can begin to heal from trauma and lessen the effects of PTSD. Some methods we offer include:

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT):

  • Focuses on identifying and changing negative thought patterns and behaviors associated with trauma.
  • Utilizes techniques such as cognitive restructuring and exposure therapy to challenge and modify maladaptive beliefs and coping strategies.
  • Can help you develop healthier coping skills and strategies to manage.

Compassion Focused Therapy:

  • Cultivates self-compassion and empathy as a means of healing from trauma.
  • Emphasizes the importance of understanding and addressing the underlying causes of self-criticism and shame often experienced by trauma survivors.
  • Utilizes mindfulness and compassion-focused exercises to promote emotional regulation and resilience.

Emotionally Focused Therapy:

  • Focuses on identifying and processing emotions related to trauma within the context of interpersonal relationships.
  • Can help you explore attachment patterns and heal relational wounds stemming from traumatic experiences.
  • Facilitates emotional expression, validation, and connection to promote healing and relational satisfaction.

Strength-Based Therapy:

  • Focuses on identifying and building on your strengths, resilience, and resources rather than solely addressing deficits or pathology.
  • Encourages you to recognize your innate capabilities and resilience in coping with trauma.
  • Empowers you to harness your strengths to overcome challenges and achieve personal growth and recovery.

Reach out today

Reaching out for help can be a difficult step, but it is also a courageous one. At All Ways Hope Counseling Center, we are dedicated to providing the compassionate and specialized care you need to heal from trauma and manage PTSD. Gain support on your journey towards resilience and well-being. Don’t hesitate to take the first step towards healing—reach out to Rosie Buzatu for more information and to start your path to recovery.