The effects of childhood trauma will vary depending upon a number of factors; however, in general, it is a good idea to consider obtaining professional help if:
– you feel empty and numb for an extended period
– you are socially isolated and therefore do not have others in whom you feel you can comfortably confide your feelings
– if you feel persistent and unremitting anxiety and tension
– if you feel the intensity of your feelings is overwhelming you
– if you feel constantly and deeply exhausted – your concentration is impaired and you feel confused/unable to concentrate
-you continue to have intrusive thoughts connected to your experience of trauma
– you often find that certain people, situations and events trigger disturbing memories of your trauma – especially if this is resulting in flashbacks
– you feel a strong need to avoid people, situations and activities that you fear will trigger unpleasant thoughts and feelings connected to the trauma that you suffered
– your sleep has been disturbed and non-refreshing for an extended period, perhaps involving nightmares, night terrors or sleep-walking
– you are finding it hard to form and maintain relationships
– you have become reliant on alcohol/narcotics/ over-eating etc in an attempt to reduce emotional suffering
– you are suffering from sexual problems connected to the trauma
NB. The above list is NOT exhaustive, but includes some of the main indications that professional help should be considered.
NATIONAL INSITUTE FOR CLINICAL EXCELLENCE IN HEALTH (NICE) TREATMENT RECOMMENDATIONS:
NICE provides national guidelines (UK) for the best way to treat health conditions. Their recommendations are based on high quality research and the accompanying scientific evidence.
For the treatment of the effects of trauma, the organization recommends TRAUMA-FOCUSED PSYCHOLOGICAL THERAPY. Examples of this type of therapy include:
1- TRAUMA-FOCUSED COGNITIVE BEHAVIOUR THERAPY – CLICK HERE
2 – EYE MOVEMENT DESENSITIZATION AND REPROCESSING THERAPY (EMDR) – CLICK HERE
3- EXPOSURE THERAPY (to help the individual cope with reminders of the trauma which trigger unpleasant feelings/bodily sensations). This can take the form of :
a) Exposure in imagination only
b) In vivo (real life) exposure (this form of exposure is graded – i.e. taken in small, manageable steps
4- COGNITIVE RESTRUCTURING – positively changes how we think about our experience of trauma and its implications
5- Also, MEDICATION AND DRUGS may be appropriate. HOWEVER, NICE do NOT recommend this as a first-line treatment for PTSD
The above list of treatment options is NOT exhaustive.
SELF – MANAGED HELP :
– Hypnosis – This can be used as an adjunct to other therapies, in combination with other therapies (e.g. cognitive hypnotherapy) or as a standalone treatment to reduce symptoms of trauma such as anxiety and phobias.
– Mindfulness Meditation – There is now a large body of evidence supporting the effectiveness of this technique for reducing symptoms of trauma including intrusive thoughts, excessive negative rumination and anxiety.
As well as seeking professional help, it is also useful to keep in mind the following tips when trying to manage the effects of trauma:
– talk about your thoughts and feelings with others you can trust and who are likely to be supportive
– be honest with your friends, family and work-colleagues about how you are feeling and the kind of help and support you feel you need
– try to keep your life as close to ‘normal’ as possible (i.e. as close as possible to how it would have been had the trauma not occurred). However, this may be extremely difficult or impossible if you are in the aftermath of a severe and intense trauma.
-get a lot of rest, relaxation and sleep; this is very important as the brain needs time to recover
– try to do as many things you enjoy (or used to enjoy) as possible
– try to avoid conflict as much as possible
– try to be as compassionate to self as possible
– if you possibly can, try not to avoid situations which remind you of your trauma – facing our fears is a very effective way of reducing them
– remind yourself that human beings are generally very resilient – think what man has endured and overcome throughout history
– accept that it is impossible for any person to control everything in their lives and that experiencing problems and difficulties is part of living
– keep things to yourself and ‘bottled up’ – talking about experiences helps you to mentally process them
– expect symptoms such as intrusive memories and flashbacks to respond immediately to treatment
– try not to ‘bury’ or suppress your painful thoughts, but try to accept them – actively trying to suppress unpleasant thoughts can actually increase their power
– remember that just because bad things may have happened in your life, this does not mean that the worst will always happen; therefore, try not to make negative predictions about the future without good evidence to do so
– do not blame yourself for how the experience of trauma has left you feeling – depression and anger, for example, are perfectly normal responses
– many people become very fearful about life in general after experiencing trauma – try not to over-estimate danger
– try to avoid unhelpful coping strategies such as drinking too much or over-sleeping – these things are very likely to make matters worse in the long-term
Effective self-help can be obtained via :
– bibliotherapy (gaining information about your condition through reading and, thus, improving your understanding of it).
– hypnotherapy (you can read more about mindfulness and hypnotherapy by visiting the FREE MINDFULNESS AND HYPNOTHERAPY ARTICLES section of this site – see MAIN MENU)
David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).