World War One. Trenches. Bomb blasts. After world war one, tens of thousands of surviving soldiers returned to their communities and seemed much different than when they had headed to war. The were startled by small sounds, their personalities seemed to have changed, and they got angry quickly. The soldier’s condition came to be known as “Shell shock”.
Today, we know that these soldiers were experiencing what we call Post Traumatic Stress disorder. Basically, they had experienced something so disturbing and outside of their normal life, their brain could not properly process the experience. They were changed forever.
Just what is the trauma anyway? Here’s one way of thinking about it. Our brain naturally processes the world around us, as we go about our daily life. It stores our experiences in memories, often in an unconscious way. When we experience something very shocking or disturbing, however, the brain cannot process this event and the information becomes stuck in our mind. We experience this in scary symptoms such as anxiety, flashbacks, and more.
How can someone who has experienced trauma recover? In today’s blog we will explore 4 quick facts about trauma including how people can find recovery.
1. Trauma is often caused by things you might not expect
When we hear about people experiencing trauma, we often think about major incidents like being involved in a war of witnessing a violent event. To be certain, these experiences do often leave people experiencing trauma, but it can also be caused by other things such. Here are some examples:
- Being chased or attacked by a dog
- Being in a disturbing argument
- Having a serious illness
- And more
Basically, anything that is shocking or disturbing to us over our own “threshold” can cause us to experience a trauma. This is because each of us have different ways of responding to the things that happen to us based on our personal experiences and other factors.
2. The trauma someone else has experienced, can cause you trauma
We’ve just learned that trauma doesn’t have to come in the form of something severe like being in a war or violent event. In fact, sometimes hearing about a traumatic event that has happened to someone else can leave us with a trauma experience also. This can be common for people in the counselling and medical professions, as well as first responders like police, fire fighters and paramedics.
3. The experience of trauma can lead to problems with drugs and alcohol
Many people who experience trauma do not know that they are traumatized. They may have trouble dealing with day to day life, become upset easily by things that otherwise did not bother them, and more. One way that some people who experience trauma cope is to increase their alcohol or drug use. They may find that they feel better with they drink or use drugs (it might take away the anxiety, or help them sleep). When people begin using alcohol and drugs as a subconscious way of dealing with trauma, this then could develop what is called a co-morbid issue of traumatization and substance use disorder.
4. Recovery from trauma is possible
When we first started to become really aware of trauma in the early 20th century, many of the supports for people who had experienced it were just that: supports. People were kept safe and comfortable, in quiet environments and unfortunately there were not any treatments that seemed to really resolve trauma. Today it is a different story. There are a number of evidence-based treatments for trauma that help people to overcome the experience. Additionally, there are a number of medications available to help treat the symptoms of trauma and PTSD, where appropriate, such as anxiety, trouble sleeping and feelings of depression.
At Divergent Counselling we have training in evidence based treatments for trauma, and as registered psychiatric nursing professionals we can provide education on medication and help you facilitate communication with your physician.