What is trauma and how can you deal with it?

Trauma (or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)) affects between four and five percent of the UK population, the highest rate being 12 percent among women between 16-24 years old.

Often, trauma is associated with war and other extreme experiences like sexual assault. And while the highest levels of PTSD do exist among veterans, many others are affected too, and trauma is becoming increasingly more common.

But what exactly is trauma? And how can you begin to deal with it?

What is trauma?

Trauma and anger

Trauma as a clinical condition defined by an individual’s reaction to an event rather than the event itself. By definition, psychological trauma must include the feeling of a ‘perceived threat’, and this threat must ‘overwhelm’ the individual.

If unresolved, this can cause extreme feelings, behaviour and emotions in a person.

While the word ‘trauma’ evokes thoughts of catastrophic disasters such as earthquakes, car crashes or a violent crime, the cause of trauma can be less significant, and it can develop in anyone and at any time.

This means that the incident needn’t be so gratuitous or calamitous to the outside world. Sometimes, experiences such as abandonment, control, neglect and smothering or being lost in a shopping mall may evoke the feelings and emotions that define trauma. 

Even relatively common experiences such as divorce, surgery or wading out of your depth at the swimming pool can result in a traumatic experience that causes PTSD. It is indiscriminate and not always easily identifiable.

Because trauma is so subjective, many of us live with ‘unresolved trauma’ from the past, and it’s how it affects you as an individual in the present that can lead to further problems.

How does trauma occur?

Trauma can manifest itself in two ways: 

  1. Emotional and physiological reactions as a direct result of past trauma can be triggered or induced by stress or specific stimuli.
  2. Traumatic memories are stored, which creates negative thoughts that are reinforced every time the trauma is revisited.

Typically, our perception of our experiences can define our actions and thoughts. Therapy looks to recalibrate the mind and remove the ‘emotional charge’ that trauma creates.

The impact that PTSD has on someone can substantially alter an individual’s mental health and can often result in other conditions developing, such as depression or addiction. As explained by Don Lavender, Program Director at Camino Recovery Centre: 

‘Experience in the field of addictions suggests the biggest contributor to relapse is stress and the biggest contributor to stress is unaddressed or unresolved trauma.’

How to deal with trauma

At Camino, we deal with Trauma resolution through numerous therapeutic modalities.

1. Equine Assisted Psychotherapy

Typically, horses are seen as an emotional ‘mirror’ to someone who might otherwise appear closed down and shut off from their emotions.

Because trauma can be deep-rooted and hidden away from a person’s conscious, we use horses to help interpret and reflect the emotions of an individual.

This therapy often works well in conjunction with Somatic experiencing. Don Lavender is an expert in this field and has been instrumental in its early development in the U.S. before bringing it to Europe.

By exploring the interpretation of a person’s interaction with a horse, a person can begin to recognise their emotions better and begin to overcome what makes them act in certain ways.

See here to read more about Equine Assisted Psychotherapy.

2. Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR)

Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing therapy seeks to desensitise the brain. People who have experienced traumatic incidents can revisit their trauma and face it head-on as a result of using smell, sound or sight to provoke memory.

EMDR seeks to unstick the brain in this thought pattern thereby resolving that sensitivity that exists.

See here to read more about Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR).

3. Art Therapy

Art therapy is an evidence-based and recognized method for supporting the recovery of mental health conditions like trauma.

With trauma, it is common that a person is shut down and unable to tap into their emotions, and then translate those feelings into the spoken word.

Many find art, however, a more comfortable way of expressing themselves and getting their message across.

For a client, it offers them the opportunity to explore, understand and resolve their trauma without having to vocalise it.

Our specialist art therapist, Veronique De Buck, trained in France before relocating to Spain and joining the team at Camino.

See here for more information on Art Therapy.

Next steps for dealing with trauma

Trauma can be very debilitating, but there is a way out. All that is required is a little courage, an open mind and, in a perfect setting, professional help.

At Camino, we work hard to help our clients address their past in a safe and comfortable place so that they can begin building a life for the future.

To find out more about how we treat trauma, visit our treatment page.

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