Types of trauma
If we've watched the news at most of us have been at least vicariously traumatized by all the stories of mass shootings as of late.
Trauma can occcur from a single event or sequence of events, or from an extended condition of significant pain or deprivation. Trauma often results in a condition called Adjustment Disorder, and can develop into full-blown Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD, where the trauma has left deep marks on the brain's nerve pathways.
Trauma in this context is defined as experiencing or witnessing an event where there existed or was a threat of death or serious harm to body or mind. The event and reminders of the event cause significant distress and impairment of functioning.
Children are more vulnerable to trauma as their brains are in the early stages of development. Children who experience trauma are more likely to develop depression and anxiety in adulthood, and more likely to abuse substances.
Accidents, such as the recent mass shootings, shatter one's sense of security even from great distances. Weather and natural disasters have hit almost every area of the country. Preparedness can help provide a sense of security and control to a point. Explaining to your children why they should trust the world to be a safe place to explore is difficult. All the more reason to have clearly defined rules and boundaries with your children.
Loss and separation from loved ones can challenge our ability to form and sustain attachments. Children are especially vulnerable to attachment disorders when there are recurrent bondings and separations from significant adults. Over time, their ability to attach gets as worn away as a piece of tape that gets re-used loses adhesiveness.
Abuse is an unfortunate part of human nature. I'd like to say this potential trait in humans could be eradicated, but the roots of abuse are too complex and entrenched. If you are or have been abused (see box on right) remember the abuse is not your fault. The abuser has a choice, there are other ways to resolve conflicts and differences. Abuse is never okay.
Click here for more information about trauma.
If you've been traumatized; How to recover
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) was first recognized in war veterans who came back from combat with changes in personality and mood often to the point of disability.
PTSD involves continued agitation and anxiety long after the event or situation has passed, intrusive memories of the event, avoiding reminders of the event, depression and anger, problems with memory and concentration, to name a few.
PTSD has much the same effect as a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and looks much the same on MRI's.
Treatment for either requires rest and avoidance of overstimulating activities. As nerve connectivity has been disrupted, the brain is in a fragile state of healing. As such, in the early stages of healing, stress should be avoided as much as possible. When confronting stressful situations, the individual should have a support person, even if just to provide reassurance and help keep the individual on task, as flashbacks, spacing out and poor concentration can make completing even simple tasks almost impossible.
Friends and family can help by simply being present, including the individual in activities and showing empathy.
Meditation can significantly help this healing process. Relaxation-focused meditation releases hormones that help clear damage caused by stress, and guided imagery helps with reassignment of meaning and reactions to triggers.
As with TBI's, PTSD involves a dismantling of the usual nerve pathways. Whereas with TBI's the connection has simply been lost, with PTSD the connections have been rewired and traumatic responses imposed. This involves the difficult task of desensitizing from trauma reminders. Desensitization requires confronting the trauma and all its details and disconnectiong the emotional response. Here again, it's best to go through this with another person, better yet a licensed professional with specific training in PTSD.
Another component of recovery from trauma is rebuilding one's sense of self, self-confidence and sense of meaning. This can be accomplished by examining one's values and life goals, improving capacity for positive emotions through play and meaningful activities.
With a proper balance of rest, support and restoration of function, you can emerge from PTSD and regain a sense of joy and meaning;
Types of abuse
physical-hitting, slapping, choking, squeezing, cornering, physically intimidating, ect.
sexual-unwanted sexual contact ranging from kissing to rape, verbal insinuations, coercion of sexual activity, posting of sexual content.
for children, any sexual contact or images or verbage of a sexual nature by an adult or older child.
emotional-shaming, shunning, hostility, codependence
psychological-cognitive confusion, threats, deluding
financial-withholding, stealing, spending
social-humiliation, isolating/marginalizing, blackmailing, using racial or gender privilege
Speak Up Against Abuse
Witnessing abuse can be traumatizing, and the victim is for many reasons unable to seek help.
I am including animal abuse and neglect in this disussion. Besides the fact that animals feel similar to how we feel, abuse or neglect of animals often coincides with abuse or neglect of people. Counselors, teachers, nurses, doctors and other helping professionals are considered "mandated reporters" in other words, required to report on suspected abuse or neglect of children, elders or the disabled. I hope that someday animals will be included in this requirement, as they have no ability to seek help, defend themselves or escape. And because following up on animal abuse and neglect cases often lead to other criminal activity.
We all have a moral obligation to intervene any time we suspect abuse or neglect. Obviously the victim is unable to advocate for themselves, or act on their own behalf. This can be for many reasons. Fear, inability to communicate, immobility, psychological conditioning, all can keep a victim entrapped.
In most cases, you can report anonymously. If you fear retaliation or repercussion this is a good idea. However, if the abuse is not obvious, or the victim is unable to speak up and the abuser wants to hide the abuse, investigators may not be able to intervene and the abuse continues.
Rather than repeat what's already out there on the web in abundance, here are links to sits with information on different types of abuse, including signs of abuse and neglect, and how to report.
Signs of abuse or neglect in children here.
How to report child abuse or neglect here. More about abuse or neglect here.
Signs of abuse or neglect in an elderly or disabled person here.
How to report suspected elder abuse or neglect here.
Signs of neglect or abuse in animals here.
How Counseling Can Help
Trauma can affect an individual and their family for years and decades, including generational trauma, such as children of holocaust survivors experienced. Trauma can affect one's mood, relationships, ability to function and severely impact quality of life.
A trained and experienced counselor can guide you through the healing process, provide a safe place to process trauma and help regain a sense of optimism and connectedness. If you have experienced trauma, counseling can help you rebuild your sense of self-confidence and optimism and remove barriers to building a satisfying life.