1. WHAT IS TRAUMA
Trauma can be defined as:
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)- characterised by re-living the trauma (e.g. flashbacks), avoidance (e.g. do not want to go back to the place where it happened) and hypervigilance (e.g. startle easily).
- Acute Stress Reaction- same symptoms as above, but less than 30 days have passed since the trauma happened.
- Big T or small t trauma: Big T trauma is caused by a life and death situation e.g. being hijacked or sexually assaulted. Small t trauma is caused by less serious situations e.g. someone saying nasty things about you.
- Trauma can be single or multiple.
2. What are the problems that trauma causes
- It keeps you in the past
- It makes you feel as if you cannot control your thoughts or body
- It steals your quality of life
- It causes unpleasant psychical symptoms (pains, palpitations)
3. WHY DO OUR BRAINS REMEMBER TRAUMA
The main function of our brain is to keep us alive. So, we remember what happened so that we can prevent the same or similar danger from harming us.
4. HOW DO WE REMEMBER TRAUMA
The hippocampus and the amygdala together are called the limbic system. The amygdala keeps track of the emotional parts of the experience, and the hippocampus remembers the facts. Adrenaline (stress hormone that we make in times of stress which enables us to fight, freeze or flee) causes the hippocampus to stop functioning, and then the brain does not remember that the trauma has stopped. The frontal lobe is the part that enables us to plan, organise, self-monitor and control our responses needs to get the right message from the hippocampus-e.g. that the trauma has stopped.
5. WHAT CAN WE DO
- Medication | SSRI antidepressants (e.g. escitalopram) to treat the underlying chemical imbalanceAnxiolytics (e.g. lorazepam) and sleeping pills may be used short-term.
- Psychotherapy | Different techniques can be used: CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), DBT (Dialectical Behavioural Therapy), EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation Therapy)
- Breath | Try just observing the breath.
- Move | Movement helps us to ‘defrost’, so it is helpful to start moving. You can chooses any movement that you like, even walking around for 15 minutes will be good.
- The first goal is to improve the quality of your life NOW.
- Not everyone needs trauma processing. Decide with your therapist what are the goals for your therapy.
- It is not important to remember the details of the trauma, it is important to remember that the trauma has stopped.
- Begin with your epilogue- you have made it!
- Flashbacks are only a memory, it is not happening now.
- Forgive yourself for freezing. Freezing is not giving consent.