Childhood Trauma And The Risk Of Future Trauma
While traumatic events can happen to anyone, youre more likely to be traumatized by an event if youre already under a heavy stress load, have recently suffered a series of losses, or have been traumatized beforeespecially if the earlier trauma occurred in childhood. Childhood trauma can result from anything that disrupts a childs sense of safety, including:
- An unstable or unsafe environment
- Domestic violence
Experiencing trauma in childhood can result in a severe and long-lasting effect. When childhood trauma is not resolved, a sense of fear and helplessness carries over into adulthood, setting the stage for further trauma. However, even if your trauma happened many years ago, there are steps you can take to overcome the pain, learn to trust and connect to others again, and regain your sense of emotional balance.
Who Can Experience Ptsd Anyone
PTSD is a condition that affects people of all ages. No one is immune to trauma or how it affects the human brain. Depending on the person, PTSD may mean something different but be equally as impactful.
The experience of post-traumatic stress can vary depending on the trauma that the individual went througheven symptoms can vary between two people. In some cases, symptoms can appear nearly instantaneously. For others, it can take decades for symptoms to surface and be recognized. For many, theres a delayed onset of symptoms, when the brain is no longer as preoccupied or the person has the opportunity to absorb what has happened.
There is no definitive answer to why some people who experience trauma develop PTSD and others do not. A combination of elements may cause the disorder or make individuals more susceptible to post-traumatic stress, such as:
- Exposure to trauma, including factors like the number of traumas experienced and the severity of those traumas
- Familial histories of anxiety and depression
- Emotional response
- How your brain regulates the hormones and chemicals your body releases in response to traumatic events and stress
- Occupations like soldiers, nurses, doctors, EMTs, law enforcement, and firefighters expose some people to more trauma than other in jobs
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
According to the DSM, there are five major factors that indicate someone is suffering with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: A) a stressor, B) intrusion symptoms, C) avoidance, D) negative alterations in mood and cognitions and E) alterations in arousal and reactivity.
The stressor occurs when the person was exposed to one of the following: death, threatened death, actual or threatened serious injury, or actual or threatened sexual violence. This stressor was either through direct exposure, witnessing the event happening to someone else, or indirectly through hearing about it from a 3rd party source. It can also happen from repeated indirect exposure for first responders to trauma, such as medical and health professionals, and may be referred to as compassion fatigue.
Intrusion symptoms occur when the traumatic event is consistently re-experienced in one of the following ways: 1) recurrent, involuntary, and intrusive memories, 2) traumatic nightmares, 3) dissociation reactions such as flashbacks, 4) intense or prolonged distress after exposure to traumatic reminders, and 5) marked physiologic reactivity after exposure to trauma-related stimuli.
Avoidance involves avoiding either internal thoughts and feelings related to the traumatic event, or external stimuli that remind the person of the trauma. These can include people, places, activities, or times of year.
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Is Complex Ptsd A Separate Condition
The International Classification of Diseases identifies complex PTSD as a separate condition, though the DSM-5 currently does not.
Complex PTSD is a relatively recent concept. Because of its variable nature, healthcare professionals may instead diagnose another condition. They may be especially likely to diagnose borderline personality disorder .
Some researchers have areas of substantial overlap between complex PTSD and BPD.
However, the conditions may also have differences. Authors of a study from 2014 reported that, for example, people with complex PTSD had consistently negative self-conceptions, while people with BPD had self-conceptions that were unstable and changing.
People with complex PTSD may experience difficulties with relationships. They tend to avoid others and may feel a lack of connection.
BPD can cause a person to swing between idealizing and undervaluing others, resulting in relationship difficulties.
It is possible for a person with BPD to also experience complex PTSD, and the combination may result in additional symptoms.
A person with complex PTSD may experience symptoms in addition to those that characterize PTSD.
Common symptoms of PTSD and complex PTSD include:
People with PTSD or complex PTSD may also experience:
Symptoms of complex PTSD can vary, and they may change over time.
People with the condition may also experience symptoms that are not listed above.
Advice To Counselors: Universal Screening And Assessment
Only people specifically trained and licensed in mental health assessment should make diagnoses trauma can result in complicated cases, and many symptoms can be present, whether or not they meet full diagnostic criteria for a specific disorder. Only a trained assessor can distinguish accurately among various symptoms and in the presence of co-occurring disorders. However, behavioral health professionals without specific assessment training can still serve an important role in screening for possible mental disorders using established screening tools . In agencies and clinics, it is critical to provide such screenings systematicallyfor each clientas PTSD and other co-occurring disorders are typically under diagnosed or misdiagnosed.
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Claiming Disability Benefits For Ptsd
There are specific requirements you must meet in order to qualify for PTSD disability benefits.
Your medical records must show you suffer from at least 1 of the following:
- You remember a traumatic experience.
- You have recurring obsessions or compulsions.
- You have an irrational fear of a situation, object, or activity that causes you to compulsively avoid it.
- You have severe panic attacks an average of once a week.
- You have generalized persistent anxiety accompanied by 3 or more of these specific physical symptoms: shortness of breath, rapid heart rate, dry mouth, cold hands, dizziness, apprehension, motor tension, increased startling, or impaired concentration.
You also must show at least 2 of these symptoms:
- You are restricted in your normal daily activities.
- You have difficulty maintaining social functioning.
- You have difficulty maintaining concentration, persistence, or pace.
- You have repeated decompensation or psychiatric symptoms that last for a long time.
If you dont have 2 of those symptoms, you can also make a disability claim for PTSD if your medical records prove that the PTSD results in your inability to function on your own outside your home.
How Do I Recognize Ptsd In Myself Or Others
With any traumatic event, it is completely normal to feel impacted. However, PTSD symptoms may interfere with the persons ability to function in their normal settings or environment.
While there are many symptoms of PTSD, they are often dismissed as something other than post-traumatic stress disorder. If symptoms escalate over time, interfere with the ability to go about day-to-day activities, or dont diminish with time, it may be worth talking to someone about the possibility of a PTSD diagnosis.
When considering if you or a loved one are living with PTSD, its important to remember that the onset of symptoms can show at any time, not just immediately after experiencing trauma. Many people have reported symptoms appearing decades after being exposed to trauma.
While military members are common among PTSD patients, women are two times more likely than men to experience PTSD, and it is often the result of trauma like domestic violence, physical abuse, or rape.
While some people are predisposed to post-traumatic stress disorder, it can impact anyone. As PTSD has many symptoms, its important to remember that someone may only express one of the following symptomsor all of them.
Each affected person will have a unique experience with PTSD and may experience any of the following:
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Narcissistic Parents And The Formation Of Cptsd
It is not hard to see why children of narcissistic parents often form complex post-traumatic stress disorder . These kids are subjected to repeated and horrific abuse at the hands of people they should be able to count on for their care.
CPTSD forms as a response to chronic traumatization that lasts for months or years. The traumatization includes physical, sexual, and for our needs in this article, emotional abuse. Unfortunately, narcissistic parents might be part of human trafficking or another ring of abuse and use their children for their financial gain.
Malignant narcissistic parents attempt to destroy the lives of their children, causing them to exhibit all the signs of someone who has CPTSD.
Advice To Counselors: Working With Clients Who Are Self
Counselors who are unqualified or uncomfortable working with clients who demonstrate self-harming, self-destructive, or suicidal or homicidal ideation, intent, or behavior should work with their agencies and supervisors to refer such clients to other counselors. They should consider seeking specialized supervision on how to manage such clients effectively and safely and how to manage their feelings about these issues. The following suggestions assume that the counselor has had sufficient training and experience to work with clients who are self-injurious. To respond appropriately to a client who engages in self-harm, counselors should:
Counselors can also help the client prepare a safety card that the client can carry at all times. The card might include the counselors contact information, a 24-hour crisis number to call in emergencies, contact information for supportive individuals who can be contacted when needed, and, if appropriate, telephone numbers for emergency medical services. The counselor can discuss with the client the types of signs or crises that might warrant using the numbers on the card. Additionally, the counselor might check with the client from time to time to confirm that the information on the card is current.
However, as with self-harming behavior, self-destructive behavior needs to be recognized and addressed and may persistor worsenwithout intervention.
Consumption of substances
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Symptoms Of Emotional Trauma
In observing and reviewing responses to trauma it is important to remember that they are NORMAL reactions to ABNORMAL events. There is no right or wrong way to feel or react to these situations. We all think differently and have different perspectives, conditioning, physical and emotional reactions. Emotional & psychological symptoms:
- Shock, denial, or disbelief
- Muscle tension
Emotional Trauma And The Amygdala
The amygdala is a section of nervous tissue in the brain that is responsible for emotions, survival instincts, and memory.
A major role of the amygdala is to detect fear. It recognizes and gathers information around us to determine threats. By using our senses, such as sight and sound, the amygdala will respond with the feeling of fear if it perceives a threat. This all happens unconsciously, deep in our brains.
When affected by PTSD, the amygdala becomes hyperactive.
Those who suffer from emotional trauma will often exhibit more fear of traumatic stressors than others. Often, stimuli can trigger overactivity in the amygdala if somehow connected to the traumatic event a person suffered from.
This might lead to chronic stress, heightened fear, and increased irritation. This might also make it harder for those suffering to calm down or even sleep.
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Avoiding Feelings Or Memories
- avoiding anything and any situation that reminds you of the trauma
- feeling like you have to keep busy
- difficulty remembering details of what happened
- feeling detached from your body or physically numb
- feeling cut off from your emotions or emotionally numb
- being unable to express affection
- using alcohol or drugs to avoid memories
- self-destructive or reckless behavior
How Can Parents Help
Above all, your child needs your support and understanding. Sometimes other family members like parents and siblings will need support too. While family and friends can play a key role in helping someone recover, help usually is needed from a trained therapist.
Here are some other things parents can do to support kids with PTSD:
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The Effects Of Emotional Abuse
The most common side effect of emotional abuse is denial of the situation. However, those in an abusive relationship may also experience intense feelings of:
The intense emotional type of trauma can then cause experiences such as mood changes, difficulty sleeping, or difficulties with concentration. While psychological trauma doesnt always mean that the victim will develop PTSD, it certainly can. Emotional abuse often occurs over a long time, and that leads to serious disruption of mental health and daily living.
Diagnosing PTSD caused by Emotional Abuse
PTSD usually develops in the aftermath of a frightening experience. That includes long-term living situations where emotional abuse was occurring. You will be diagnosed with emotional abuse PTSD if you display the following symptoms:
- Mood changes and outbursts of anger
- Intense responses to loud noises or unexpected events
- Depression and negativity
- Nightmares and problems with sleeping
- Emotional flashbacks where you relive the trauma to the point where your body starts to react in the same way
For younger victims of childhood trauma, other symptoms can include bedwetting, being overly attached to non-abusive adults, or even regression.
If you have experienced emotional abuse or believe that you are currently in an emotionally abusive relationship then its vital that you get help as soon as possible.
Social Support And Self
Whichever therapy you choose, getting help can provide you with a safe place to express and approach your emotions. Seeking social support from trusted loved ones can also provide a safe way to express your emotions. Finally, writing about your feelings can also give you a safe and private way to release your deepest thoughts.
If your emotions feel really unclear or unpredictable, self-monitoring may be a useful strategy for you. It can give you a sense of which situations bring out certain thoughts and feelings.
Finally, if your emotions feel too strong, try distraction instead of avoidance. Distraction can be viewed as temporary avoidance. Do something to temporarily distract you from a strong negative emotion, such as reading a book, calling a trusted friend, or taking a bath. This may give the emotion some time to decrease in strength, making it easier to cope with.
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Dealing With Traumatic Stress
Just as it can often take time to clear the rubble and repair the damage following a disaster or traumatic event, it can also take time to recover your emotional equilibrium and rebuild your life. But there are specific things you can do to help yourself and your loved ones cope with the emotional aftermath of traumaand find a way to move on with your life.
Remember theres no right or wrong way to feel. People react in different ways to trauma, so dont tell yourself what you should be thinking, feeling, or doing.
Dont ignore your feelingsit will only slow recovery. It may seem better in the moment to avoid experiencing your emotions, but they exist whether youre paying attention to them or not. Even intense feelings will pass if you simply allow yourself to feel what you feel.
Avoid obsessively reliving the traumatic event. Repetitious thinking or viewing horrific images over and over can overwhelm your nervous system, making it harder to think clearly. Partake in activities that keep your mind occupied , so youre not dedicating all your energy and attention to the traumatic event.
Reestablish routine. There is comfort in the familiar. After a disaster, getting backas much as possibleto your normal routine, will help you minimize traumatic stress, anxiety, and hopelessness. Even if your work or school routine is disrupted, you can structure your day with regular times for eating, sleeping, spending time with family, and relaxing.
How To Help An Abused Or Neglected Child
What should you do if you suspect that a child is being abused? Or if a child confides in you? Its normal to feel a little overwhelmed and confused. Child abuse is a difficult subject that can be hard to accept and even harder to talk aboutfor both you and the child. When talking with an abused child, the best way to encourage them is to show calm reassurance and unconditional support. If youre having trouble finding the words, let your actions speak for you.
Avoid denial and remain calm. A common reaction to news as unpleasant and shocking as child abuse is denial. However, if you display denial to a child, or show shock or disgust at what they are saying, the child may be afraid to continue and will shut down. As hard as it may be, remain as calm and reassuring as you can.
Dont interrogate. Let the child explain to you in their own words what happened, but dont interrogate the child or ask leading questions. This may confuse and fluster the child and make it harder for them to continue their story.
Reassure the child that they did nothing wrong. It takes a lot for a child to come forward about abuse. Reassure them that you take what they said seriously, and that it is not their fault.
Safety comes first. If you feel that your safety or the safety of the child would be threatened if you tried to intervene, leave it to the professionals. You may be able to provide more support later.
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Changes In Physical And Emotional Reactions
Sometimes referred to as arousal symptoms, these symptoms emerge in reaction to the trauma and include things like:
- Easily startled
- Feelings of detachment from friends and family
- No interest in things that once brought you joy
- Inability to experience positive emotions
- Emotional numbness
- Memory problemseven difficulty remembering key details of your trauma
PTSD symptoms may come and go over time. Seeking treatment can help you recognize certain triggers so that you can manage the emotions they bring about if you cant avoid these triggers.
The Emotional Response To Traumatic Events
Its normal to experience traumatic stress following a disturbing event, whether its a traffic accident, plane crash, violent crime, terrorist attack, global pandemic, or a natural disaster like an earthquake, hurricane, or flood. You may feel intense shock, confusion, and fear, or feel numb or overwhelmed by a host of conflicting emotions, sometimes all at once. And these emotions arent limited to the people who experienced the event. Round-the-clock news and social media coverage means that were all bombarded with horrific images of tragedy, suffering, and loss almost the instant they occur anywhere in the world. Repeated exposure can overwhelm your nervous system and create traumatic stress just as if you experienced the event firsthand.
Traumatic stress can shatter your sense of security, leaving you feeling helpless and vulnerable in a dangerous worldespecially if the traumatic event was manmade, such as a shooting or act of terrorism. You may feel physically and emotionally drained, overcome with grief, or find it difficult to focus, sleep, or control your temper. These are all normal responses to abnormal events.
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