Trauma & PTSD
One common definition of trauma is “a deeply distressing or disturbing experience or physical injury.” Posttraumatic responses (consistent with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, American Psychiatric Association, DSM-5) are identified as reactions following exposure to actual or threatened death, serious injury, or sexual violation.
Trauma affects not only those who are directly exposed to it but those around them as well. Trauma impacts our minds and emotions, our capacity for joy and intimacy, and even our biology and immune systems. Traumatic memories impact our brain biochemistry differently than typical memories and are more accessible and visceral. Post-traumatic reactions may feel incomprehensible, overwhelming, out of the body, or out of control. Traumatic experiences are often described as violations of the integrity of oneself.
Fortunately, post-traumatic stress and trauma can be processed and released. While each person is unique, healing typically involves allowing the self to process the experience in a variety of ways, including talking through memories of the trauma, (thereby integrating both emotional and cognitive aspects of the trauma); allowing the body to experience and release helplessness, rage, or collapse that often result from trauma; and using medication or other technologies that change the way the brain organizes information, so the brain may release trauma, instead of “getting stuck” processing trauma as if it was repetitively occurring in the present. Psychotherapy can be instrumental in moving through trauma so that individuals can move on with their lives.
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