Trauma refers to an unexpected event where a person’s well being and safety was put at risk. The person’s emotional response may lead to mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, and PTSD. PTSD is one of the most common mental illnesses in the United States and is considered difficult to treat. However, newer therapy approaches, such as EMDR for PTSD, have already helped many people to recover.
The circumstances of the traumatic event can be a one-time occurrence, like a car accident or sexual assault. It can also be a longer, repeated occurrence, like domestic violence or child abuse, which can take place over the course of years.
For ongoing, repeated incidents, mental health professionals call that reaction complex trauma (or complex post traumatic stress disorder). As a result of the long-term nature of complex trauma, victims will exhibit more severe and complicated symptoms.
Learn more about complex trauma treatment.
Disbelief, numbness, and shock may be some of the first things experienced after a traumatic event.
Traumatic occurrences experienced as a child or teenager may be too unbelievable and painful to process that it gets avoided and buried.
In other cases, stressful triggers and unhealthy responses develop, causing changes in physical and brain functioning. But eventually, whether acknowledged or unacknowledged, trauma will cause disruptions in daily life.
Intrusive dreams or memories, physical symptoms, or worse—the development of a mental illness or addiction may occur.
There are a range of treatments for trauma-related mental illnesses, including EMDR therapy, which we will discuss later on. For now, here is what you need to know about how trauma can lead to mental illness.
Types of Trauma
The most well known type of trauma is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).Symptoms may include an inability to concentrate, depression, anxiety, social isolation, development of an eating disorder, self-harm, uncontrollable flashbacks, or drug addiction.
You are most likely to have heard of PTSD in the context of returning soldiers, who have participated in active battle.
Additionally, physical, psychological, verbal, and emotional abuses are traumatic occurrences that can lead to PTSD. They often take place in various types of relationships, whether it is mother and child, within a marriage, or between peers.
More recently, studies have been done examining each form of specific trauma.
For example, Dr. Karyl McBride, a psychologist in Colorado works on examining the long-term effects of trauma, emotional abuse, narcissism, and manipulation between mothers and daughters.
For the better, research today has become so focused.
This is helpful for many suffering from the effects of specific kinds of trauma who think that no one out there understands. More support and healing can be found every day.
If persistent manipulation and control exists over a lengthy period, the person may experience serious damage to their emotional regulation, social functioning, and cognitive abilities. Abuse has traumatic effects that can cause irreparable damage and lead to unsafe coping mechanisms.
Neglect and abandonment are other types of trauma.
Often times this occurs in childhood. Foster children, kids within an abusive homes, or orphans are usually the victims of this kind of trauma. This can manifest into personality disorders, unhealthy attachment styles, behavioral instability, anger, violence problems or addiction in adulthood.
Experiencing or witnessing violence is a traumatic event. Exposure to violent acts can cause PTSD in returning servicemen. Trauma can also form from witnessing a natural disaster or accident that resulted in senseless harm.
Rape victims also experience severe forms of trauma through sexual abuse.
Women may also be diagnosed with PTSD. This is due to the severity of rape and the shock and lingering shame.
Women are also more likely to also suffer from anxiety, major depressive disorder, or an eating disorder, in addition to PTSD. This is especially dangerous if symptoms go untreated and unreported.
Many people will experience some form of trauma in their lifetimes.
However, the variables of that trauma will determine whether they will have lasting impacts in adulthood.
Trauma endured is often extremely painful and shocking in nature.
So, it is not surprising that people keep the incidents to themselves, and eventually bury it, or do the best they can to ignore it.
However, slowly talking about significant pain and trauma can begin healing. And while certain effects of trauma cannot be solved by talk therapy alone, there are newer modalities of treatment that have undeniable success rates.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
EMDR therapy (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is a promising, relatively new therapy approach for treating trauma. EMDR therapy has been accepted by the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, and the Veteran’s Administration as a viable form of treatment.
Developed by Dr. Francine Shapiro, EMDR therapy is an information processing procedure that minimizes the harmful effects from trauma.
EMDR for PTSD works through helping the patient gather, process, and resolve past trauma that has had a disruptive impact on their life. EMDR therapy focuses on paralyzing triggers, thoughts, and feelings causing problems, while tapping into trauma.
Overwhelming and all consuming issues like nightmares, insomnia, major depressive disorder, anxiety, flashbacks, traumatic memories, and paralyzing fear can be decreased significantly or erased through EMDR for PTSD.
The EMDR Approach
Therapists who utilize this form of treatment undergo lengthy training to acquire additional certification for this tailored treatment approach.
During EMDR therapy for PTSD, the therapist waves a finger in front of the patient’s eyes.
The patient then follows one of the therapist’s fingers as they move from left to right.
The second attention usually includes listening to a sound, tapping, or some other soft cue, while tracking the therapists’ finger movements. As these dual experiences take place, the therapist will lead the patient through re-experiencing and reprocessing painful trauma.
This takes place over multiple sessions.
For those who suffer from complex trauma (examples: child abuse, neglect, or domestic violence) it will take longer than at least three sessions in order to see results.
For an isolated traumatic incident, it may take less time. Results show an approximate eighty percent success rate for EMDR therapy when treating isolated traumatic experiences.
EMDR therapy is noted for its quicker results and lasting effectiveness. More and more evidence indicating the effectiveness of EMDR with PTSD has been gathered over the last twenty years.
EMDR Therapy for PTSD
Regardless of the type of treatment, it is always important to confront the effects of trauma, versus avoiding it. Brushing things under the rug can only work for so long before issues get so big, they can no longer be ignored.
Treatment centers help confront those lingering effects.
Whether in an intensive outpatient program or a residential program, clinicians work for you and with you to find the right course of treatment.
Whether that’s traditional psychotherapy or newer methods, like EMDR, the right fit is out there. Start treatment today.