What is Trauma?
According to the American Psychological Association, “Trauma is an emotional response to a terrible event like an accident, rape or natural disaster. Immediately after the event, shock and denial are typical. Longer-term reactions include unpredictable emotions, flashbacks, strained relationships and even physical symptoms like headaches or nausea.” Trauma is essentially the body and mind’s response to an activating event. That activating event can be anything from a strained relationship with an important person in your life, a breakup or divorce, the physical loss of a friend or family member, traumatic events from war, physical or sexual assault, etc.
Trauma is the body’s response to a disturbing or life-threatening event. When an experience overwhelms the individual, it causes feelings of fear, disconnection, and numbness. As an immediate reaction, these feelings are protective in nature, but, without professional trauma treatment, victims may struggle to understand how to deal with trauma in the long term.
The experience of trauma is subjective and, while many traumatic events are obvious and easily identified, any experience that profoundly affects an individual in an environment involving lack of control, helplessness, pain, or loss might have traumatic effects. Trauma healing starts when we recognize that it is the response itself that defines trauma, not the triggering event.
Which Life Events Are Likely to Cause Trauma?
- Relational trauma—Emotional, verbal, or sexual abuse; living with a narcissistic/borderline partner/family member; loss of a loved one; living with an addict
- Medical diagnoses or long-term illness
- Physical accidents such as car accidents, falls, etc.
- Natural disasters—Earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, etc.
- Violence—Victim of a crime, rape, assault, robbery, or witnessing of violence
- War—Combat or military experience
What Are the Types of Trauma?
Psychologists use these specific categories to guide patients in overcoming trauma:
- Complex Trauma: results from repeated, cumulative trauma, often within an abusive relationship or environment.
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) develops after a traumatic event where severe injury or even death was witnessed, threatened, or happened directly to the individual.
- Developmental Trauma Disorder occurs when trauma is experienced in the first three years of life and interferes with the child’s development. Healing childhood trauma early is essential to reduce these effects.
What Are the Symptoms of Trauma?
Symptoms of trauma include both physical and emotional indicators, such as:
- Anger, depression, anxiety, panic
- Persistent feelings of sadness and despair
- Nausea, dizziness, and headaches
- Intense feelings of guilt
- Feelings of isolation and hopelessness
- Nightmares, insomnia
- Difficulty with relationships
- Emotional outbursts
- Changes in appetite
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Dissociative disorders
- Substance abuse problems
- Denial or shock, including numbed emotions, questioning of perceptions, and/or memory disturbances
- Confusion and disorientation
- Disturbing thoughts or traumatic memories which intrude on dreams and everyday life
How Do I know If I am Suffering from Trauma?
Trauma can present itself in a variety of ways. We often see the consequences of trauma reflected somatically, in people’s physical bodies, Emotionally, in people’s attachments and intimate relationships, as well as, in their levels of anxiety, anger or depression, and behaviorally, in how people interact with their environment. A common way that the brain naturally deals with trauma is to dissociate from it or in other words, to not identify with it.
- Gastrointestinal dysregulation
- Autoimmune disease
- Hypersensitivity to physical touch
- Sensorimotor problems
- Difficulty with concentration or balance
- Ability to ignore pain
- Low Self-esteem
- Difficulty with body image
- Lack of a continuous sense of self
- Not recognizing your body as your own
- Feelings of shame, fear, guilt, and horror.
- Emotionally trauma may present as:
- Difficulty with emotional self-regulation
- Difficulty communicating or identifying wants and needs
- Difficulty stating emotions and feelings.
- Difficulty setting or respecting boundaries
- Difficulty identifying others as safe or unsafe
- Isolating from others, often feeling suspicious of others
- Difficulty with maintaining relationships
- Social isolation
- Uncertainty about others and the world
- Difficulty with perspective-taking
- Poor impulse control
- Aggression against others
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Intentional or unintentional self-destructive behavior
- Excessive drug or alcohol use
- Disordered eating
- Reenactment of traumatic past in day-to-day activities
- Self-Destructive behavior
- Substance Abuse
- Maladaptive self-soothing behaviors
- Difficulty with focus or attention
- Lack of interest in things that you used to enjoy
- Difficulty processing information
- Difficulty completing tasks
- Difficulty with decision making or setting plans
- Difficulty orienting to time and place
- Feeling numb
- Inability to remember certain important events
- Fear of abandonment and death
- Repeated disturbing thoughts, images, or dreams associated with negative past events
What is Dissociation?
Dissociation is essentially a disconnect between a person’s memories, feelings, behaviors, perceptions, and sometimes even their sense of self. Some people might describe this experience as an out-of-body experience. Dissociation is akin to the brain’s fail-safe. When the body and mind have experienced a trauma that cannot be processed, your brain will check out and disconnect from the negative experience so that the person can continue to go on. In a sense, the use of drugs is a chemical way to cause our brains to dissociate from negative events and/or feelings. Trauma therapy involves association and being sober.
Dissociation can present as:
- The inability to remember some events
- Depersonalization from experiences
- Two or more distinct states or alters
- Inability to remember all or part of a traumatic event
Dissociation can be as small as not remembering if you mailed a letter or just thought about doing it or as extreme as, not remembering someone who you have indeed met before.
At Serenity Trauma Center we take into account each client’s unique experiences and responses to their trauma. Our interdisciplinary approach allows the client to have space, safety, and support to move through and process their trauma and assists them in living a more integrated and peaceful life.
Mental health professionals who specialize in trauma treatment and recovery will evaluate the patient’s unique history and symptoms to create an individualized treatment plan. Successfully coping with trauma begins with awareness of its effects and learning skills to change or regulate our reaction.
It is possible to reduce the fear associated with emotional or situational triggers and to strengthen the body’s natural ability to recover. The latest in evidence-based therapies are available at Serenity Trauma Center to make your healing process faster, deeper, and more complete.
Trauma Therapy Options Available at Serenity Trauma Center
- Neurofeedback therapy
- Somatic experiencing
- EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing)
- Sensorimotor psychotherapy
- EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique or Emotionally Focused Therapy)
- Art Therapy
- Therapeutic massage
- Restorative yoga
- Trauma-Informed Movement
- Personal Training
- Physical Therapy
- DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy)
The Serenity Method
The Serenity Outpatient programs are programs that are based on the Serenity Method. The Serenity Method was designed to help clients heal faster by using evidence-based therapies to help clients process their traumatic experiences, train and create new neural pathways, and help to restore self-regulation.
The emotional impact of trauma often leads to various physiological reactions and behaviors that feel out of our control. Oftentimes these behaviors cause us to repeat and recreate the same patterns over and over again in our work and social environment and interpersonal relationships. The Serenity Method assists the clients in working through their traumatic experiences with your trained mental health staff.
All sessions at Serenity Trauma Center are one on one, individual sessions that allow us to focus solely on the client. The highest level of care offers 30 individual sessions per week. That’s 120 sessions per month! The goal of these sessions is to learn and implement calming and coping strategies, to process the trauma to reduce its impact, identify, challenge, and replace biased, and reduce emotional distress related to the trauma
Processing trauma is a personal journey that benefits from experienced guidance. If you or a loved one are wondering how to heal from trauma, reach out to our caring team in Malibu for access to the personalized care that will allow you to fully return to the vibrant life you deserve.