Individualized Care for Trauma, Complicated Grief & Loss, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Trauma is defined as a deeply disturbing or distressing experience. It can come from a number of sources; typical traumatic events include accidents involving injury, abusive relationships, or the death of a loved one. Trauma is our psychological and emotional response to extreme events, and everyone processes events differently and thus experiences traumatic events differently. Trauma can be the result of a single event, like a hurricane or a mugging, or can be from repeated events, such as an abusive relationship or dangerous job. This form of cumulative traumatic experiencing is called complex trauma, and is often difficult to treat.
Individuals who have experienced trauma and suffer repetitive symptoms due to it are defined as having post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. There are a number of different symptoms associated with PTSD, but the condition is generally characterized by persistent negative or terrifying thoughts, memories, or feelings related to their traumatic experiences. Individuals with PTSD are often viewed as being unable to move past the traumatic experiences, and tend to have severe reactions to anything that reminds them of the traumatic events, such as places, sounds, certain tasks, etc. These overreactions are commonly referred to as trauma responses.
Left untreated PTSD can manifest into other mental health issues. Clinical depression is often seen in individuals with a history of trauma, and traumatized individuals will ruminate on events and be consumed with survivor’s guilt. Anxiety and panic attacks can also be the result of post-traumatic. Individuals with PTSD often engage in risky and self-destructive behaviors, and are more likely to develop a substance use disorder or commit suicide.
Common Trauma Symptoms Include:
- Increased hostility and irritability
- Outbursts of anger
- Flashbacks and intrusive thoughts or memories
- Persistent feelings of sadness
- Recurring nightmares
- Excessive feelings of guilt, responsibility, and shame
- Physical symptoms like headaches
Treating Trauma & PTSD Effectively
Effective trauma treatment begins with a psychiatric evaluation and proper diagnosis. Psychiatry is a key component of any effective trauma treatment stratagem; while medication cannot treat the root causes of post-traumatic stress disorder, proper psychopharmacology can treat co-occurring issues such as anxiety and depression, and alleviate other psychological symptoms so that the person is stable enough to begin working through any underlying trauma. Once the more immediate symptoms of PTSD have been treated, the next step is to process past traumatic experiences so they no longer dominate your life, and learn new coping strategies to deal with trauma-related responses and triggers when they do crop up.
Therapies Used in Treating Trauma
- Behavioral therapies (CBT and DBT)
- Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
- Prolonged Exposure Therapy / In Vivo Exposure Therapy
- Talk therapy / process therapy
- Holistic mind-body practices, such as yoga, mindfulness meditation, etc.
When someone experiences isolated or repetitive trauma, and as a result develops post traumatic stress disorder, the very structure of their brain is altered. The Amygdala, the part of the brain which governs fight-or-flight responses, becomes hyperactive, and other parts of the brain governing mood control often become less active. Our three-pronged approach to trauma treatment is to treat the symptoms, teach behavioral skills for self-regulation, and process the underlying trauma in order to provide successful resolution. As a doctor focused on treating patients holistically, Dr. Rodriguez sometimes combines exposure therapy and processing, with a regimen of physical exercise and mindfulness practices, in order to create the necessary changes in brain structure to overcome debilitating PTSD.