Trauma comes from the Greek word for wound, also meaning damage or defeat, which very accurately describes what a trauma may be. In medical terms, it is often used to refer to an injury, whereas in psychological textbooks, trauma is usually ascribed to a traumatic event that is experienced as distressing to the sufferer or observer.
People who experience a traumatic event often suffer psychological symptoms. In most instances, these are normal reactions to abnormal situations.
Any event where the victim feels they are in danger can trigger the symptoms of PTSD, Post Traumatic Stres Disorder. Most people think of events such as bombings, physical assault and plane crashes, but many more people also suffer PTSD following car accidents - however minor - and medical procedures.
According to DSM-IV (Diagnostic & Statistical Manual) you will be diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder if you have been in a traumatic event (or seen one) where: someone died or was seriously injured, or could have died or been seriously injured, or something was done to your body against your will and at the time it happened you felt intense fear, helplessness or horror.
Although most of us have experienced the often-frightening effects of the 'fight or flight' reaction, those with PTSD may suffer from a combination of the following. PTSD is diagnosed if these symptoms have continued for more than one month and are severely affecting your life
Children's reactions to trauma may be very different. A common response is loss of trust and fear of the event reoccurring. Very young children, who may be unable to verbalise their distress, may react by becoming very clingy and regressing to behaviours such as bedwetting and being fearful of the dark.
Children between six and eleven often become quiet and withdrawn. They may suffer from sleep disturbances, become very angry and often suffer from feelings of guilt.
Older children and adolescents often resort to drug, alcohol and tobacco use. They will display many of the behaviours seen in adult sufferers, particularly avoidance, depression and nightmares.
Children in general may demonstrate anti-social behaviour and show a distinct deterioration in school attendance and grades.
In 2005, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) published treatment guidelines for PTSD. This identified that the best psychological therapies were likely to be better for most people than drug treatments, and that two specific interventions seemed better than others: trauma-focused cognitive behaviour therapy (TF-CBT) and eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR). Both these treatments address the negative beliefs which are usually present in PTSD - 'I'm to blame', 'I'm going to die', 'I'm powerless', for example.
Whereas TF-CBT integrates behavioural and cognitive therapy, often with stress management, EMDR is frequently a stand-alone therapy.
(taken from the website of the emdr association, with thanks)
When a person is involved in a distressing event, they may feel overwhelmed and their brain may be unable to process the information like a normal memory. The distressing memory seems to become frozen on a neurological level. When a person recalls the distressing memory, the person can re-experience what they saw, heard, smelt, tasted or felt, and this can be quite intense. Sometimes the memories are so distressing, the person tries to avoid thinking about the distressing event to avoid experiencing the distressing feelings. Some find that the distressing memories come to mind when something reminds them of the distressing event, or sometimes the memories just seem to just pop into mind.
The alternating left-right stimulation of the brain with eye movements, sounds or taps during EMDR, seems to stimulate the frozen or blocked information processing system. In the process the distressing memories seem to lose their intensity, so that the memories are less distressing and seem more like 'ordinary' memories. The effect is believed to be similar to that which occurs naturally during REM sleep (Rapid Eye Movement) when your eyes rapidly move from side to side. EMDR helps reduce the distress of all the different kinds of memories, whether it was what you saw, heard, smelt, tasted, felt or thought.
EMDR can help with:
In 1995, Gary Craig launched a therapeutic technique called Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) that advocates targeting specific experiences that have caused a problem. With a phobia of flying, for example, the therapist may target a number of triggers, such as feeling trapped, the sound of the engines, the idea of being high up, fears of panicking, or of making a fool of oneself, as well as previous experiences of fear. A skilled EFT practitioner will use specific words and phrases to target all the relevant aspects of a problem for a thorough clearing of the anxiety or other emotional charge. Tapping on specific points - carried out by the client - can be a rapid means of emotional desensitisation and is particularly effective in cases where panic and flashbacks are a problem.
Finally, hypnosis has a long history of being employed to treat the symptoms of war-related trauma. Many clients may present with 'residual trauma', that is: they do not fulfil the criteria for PTSD, but are experiencing high levels of anxiety and, very often, a phobic reaction to certain events, travelling being the most common. The use of hypnosis to desensitise the phobia and reduce the anxiety is often very effective, not least because individuals who have experienced trauma are often highly hypnotisable. It can also, of course, be an effective treatment for pain.
So, to sum up, the following treatments may all be effective where PTSD is suspected (we would always encourage clients to obtain a diagnosis before seeking treatment):
Carole Wan & Alan Cooper use all the above disciplines. They are fully qualified EMDR therapists, in addition to holding qualifications in Hypnotherapy and EFT. Carole & Alan have trained in stress management to an advanced level, and combine all these, together with cognitive behaviour therapy and NLP, in their practice.
For further information, please contact us.