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Traumatic events are distressing or life-threatening experiences that can severely compromise emotional well-being. Such events can include being the victim of a crime, experiencing or witnessing a severe accident, receiving a life-threatening medical diagnosis, exposure to a natural disaster, participating in war combat or enduring physical, sexual or emotional abuse.
After a traumatic event it is normal and expected to feel frightened, sad, anxious and even disconnected. Usually these symptoms fade with time and we can get back to living life again. For some people, however, the event remains painful and the memories and symptoms do not fade. This heightened anxious arousal can then began to affect the way we relate to world and can decrease our quality of life.
Often times individuals who have experienced trauma may start to show signs of extreme anxiety or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). They may develop ongoing problems with relationships, self-esteem, anger management and even daily life functions. Symptoms of PTSD can develop immediately or can appear gradually over time. They are often triggered by something that is reminiscent of the original trauma such as an image, smell, sound or a situation.
Although no two people are alike, the symptoms of PTSD manifest themselves in three main ways. First, PTSD sufferers may re-experience the traumatic event through upsetting memories, flashbacks, nightmares, feelings of intense distress and strong physical reactions such as rapid breathing, nausea, muscle tension, sweating and rapid heart rate. Secondly they may experience avoidance and numbing. For example, they may avoid places, thoughts or feelings that remind them of the trauma and/or they may not be able to remember important aspects of the event. One young man began to travel miles out of his way to avoid a bridge after being side swiped on a bridge he had previously crossed daily. Finally, increased anxiety and emotional arousal are a third category of PTSD symptoms. Sufferers may have difficulty staying or falling asleep, find it hard to concentrate, feel jumpy and be easily startled, and/or exhibit irritability and outbursts of anger.
Many forms of therapy have proven effective in the treatment of trauma. Three of the most effective are Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Exposure Therapy and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). An individual therapist can help you deal with the aftermath of a traumatic event by using these therapies to help you process the event, reduce your fear and anxiety, and develop healthier ways to respond in situations that trigger the traumatic memories.
The Summit Counseling Center is offering a Trauma Recovery Group this fall. This group is designed for individuals who have already processed their trauma with an individual therapist. The treatment goal of this group is to help identify trauma related conflicts, unlearn specific distortions related to the trauma and reduces anxiety symptoms. It is designed to foster self-awareness, process the trauma on the feeling level and restore quality of life. It is a nine week group that integrates many exercises based on therapies that have proven to be the most effective in treating trauma. For more information contact: Carleen Newsome, LPC.