Written by: Calvalyn Day, MsED
Most people would be say that experiencing trauma is rare.
Most people would be wrong.
Being that a trauma is simply a very difficult or unpleasant experience that causes someone to have mental or emotional problems usually for a long time, it’s not unthinkable that most adults will experience one at some time during their lives. According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, depending on gender 50-60% of adults will be able to identify that they have had a traumatic experience. Some of those people will ultimately develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which includes psychological and physical symptoms that significantly impact a person’s ability to function.
Most people are familiar with the way that PTSD impacts veterans, understanding how war can change a person’s ability to process emotions. But did you know the PTSD symptoms can be experienced from natural disasters, significant traffic accidents, and even witnessing death or injury? With the improvement of digital cameras, there has been more of an immediate and constant access to visuals of violence that can create or trigger memories of trauma which can lead to the PTSD effect.
There are four categories of symptoms of PTSD. These include re-experiencing, avoidance, arousal or reactivity, and thought and mood changes. What do these look like? Here’s a few examples.
- A flashback that includes a mental picture of the traumatic event and physical changes like increased heartrate or sweating.
- Staying away from people or places that remind you of the traumatic event.
- Being easily startled.
- Difficulty sleeping.
- Loss of interest in pleasurable activities, especially those enjoyed before the trauma.
- Distorted thoughts or feelings about one’s self or the world.
Not only can adults experience PTSD, but kids can as well. Kids struggle in similar ways, but often express their pain differently. Defiance, disrespect, and aggression are common signs. Some children also have physical symptoms, like stomach aches, headaches, and even incontinence.
For a 14 year old client of mine, it was easy to attribute his increased stomach aches to a recurrence of acid reflux that he had as a kid. But as I screened him for PTSD, we realized he’d also been avoiding many activities, other than video games which he used to numb himself when he was stressed. His sleep was also disrupted and he noticed that he was more often startled by loud noises than he ever had been before.
It’s easy to overlook or minimize symptoms or blame them on changes that naturally occur, but treatment, which can help, only begins when you’ve acknowledged the need. At times, medication for depressive type symptoms may be prescribed. In other cases a combination of Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT), Eye Movement Desensitization, and Reprocessing (EMDR) treatment or even classic talk therapies can be used or combined with medication for the best benefit.
If you’re experiencing any changes in your mood, or physical symptoms that you think might be attributed to PTSD, there is hope and help available. Schedule an appointment with one of the clinicians at The Well today.
Calvalyn specializes in individual and group counseling strategies with children and teens, parent coaching, and educational consulting. Calvalyn is a passionate advocate for families with special needs and can consult with you via phone or Skype. To learn more about Calvalyn’s services and how she can meet your family’s needs, email Calvalyn at firstname.lastname@example.org or call her at the office at 317-471-8996.