When you have experienced trauma, whether it was a one-time situation or chronic, repeated traumatic events, it can be overwhelming and painful. You may not know how to fully process what you’ve been through, which makes it easy for the trauma to “take over” your thoughts and feelings. You may just long to feel safe again.
So many people don’t know what to do to find some kind of relief from feelings of fear and anxiety, so it’s easy to feel lost and alone. But there are reasons for hope. There are so many resources available for trauma survivors, including therapy. In order to understand why therapy is so effective at helping, let’s first look at how impactful a traumatic event can be, and why help is often needed.
Trauma Physically Alters the Brain
Even someone who hasn’t experienced trauma understands that it can be painful and frightening. But what most people don’t know is that it can actually physically change how the brain works and how it responds to certain things.
During a traumatic event, our “fight or flight” response is activated so that we can respond to the threat in front of us. This is a healthy and adaptive response for when we are confronted with a threatening situation, and it can help to protect us and save our lives. However, days, weeks, months, or even years after the trauma is over, if we see things that remind us of the trauma, our brain can interpret these things as a threat and our bodies can then go into fight or flight again. For example, if you were in a terrible car accident, your body may go into fight or flight when you go to get into a car three weeks after the accident because your brain still interprets the car as a threat. Going into the fight or flight response can trigger a range of emotions, including feelings of anxiety and panic (e.g., racing heartbeat, trouble breathing, dizziness, sweating, and nausea).
What Does Trauma Therapy Look Like?
Trauma therapy serves to accomplish several different things. First, it recognizes the impact of trauma on an individual. People respond to it in different ways, so a therapist can help you better understand how what you experienced impacted you since everyone’s experience is unique.
During therapy, you will process the memories of the trauma through talking about it and discussing the thoughts and feelings that come up related to the experience(s). For people who experienced chronic trauma as children and adolescents, therapy also focuses on how those traumatic experiences shaped your development, and how it has impacted how you function in your current relationships.
Trauma therapy will also provide you with the coping skills needed to deal with the powerful feelings that come up when you are triggered by reminders of what you experienced. This will allow you to feel more in control of your thoughts and feelings. The ultimate goal of trauma therapy is to work through your traumatic experiences so that they are not having a negative impact on your present day life.
If trauma has impacted you, you’re not alone. At times, reaching out for help can feel overwhelming. Trauma survivors can sometimes feel guilt and shame, even when they’ve done nothing wrong. However, by contacting a mental health professional, you can take your life back and better understand how to deal with those feelings. You don’t have to live the rest of your life letting your trauma define you.
Feel free to contact me for more information or to set up an appointment today. Together, we can dive into examining how the trauma you experienced is impacting you, and what you can do to begin to heal.