PTSD Treatment and Trauma Counselling
Have you, a family member or friend been through extreme stress or a traumatic experience? You can experience these situations without realizing the impact on your physical and emotional health. Psychological trauma, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or Complex PTSD are conditions that affect relationships and can leave sufferers feeling overwhelmed, helpless and alone.
These conditions are treatable. Our professional counsellors, psychotherapists, and psychologists can help. Call us now on 0400 999 918 for PTSD Treatment and Trauma Counselling. Don’t wait to heal.
And read more about trauma and PTSD below:
Trauma is the psychological and emotional response to situations of extreme stress that overwhelms our ability to cope. The negative situations can be a one off events or repeated situations. Trauma can trigger when there is a significant threat to our physical or psychological well-being. Our sense of security and safety is shattered, making us feel vulnerable and helpless. Trauma affects us psychological and physiologically.
Examples of situations that can cause trauma include: natural disasters (bush fires, floods), war, rape, child abuse, armed robbery, physical assault, illness, sports injury, chronic pain, difficult childbirth, domestic violence, the discovery of a life-threatening illness or disabling condition, suicide or death of a family member or friend (including pets), or a serious workplace or motor vehicle accident.
A situations or event will more likely trigger trauma if:
- It was caused by a person
- You were unprepared for it
- You felt helpless or powerless to prevent it
- It happened unexpectedly
- You had an intense emotional reaction
- You were unable to have emotions or feelings
- It happened repeatedly
- It was very cruel
- It happened in childhood
Situations do not have to include physical harm to cause trauma. Situations that leave us feeling overwhelmed and alone such as workplace harassment or bullying, witnessing a traumatic event, divorce, parental alienation, the breakup of a significant relationship, or public ridicule can cause trauma. Physiologically, we react to such experiences in the same way as we would to physical harm.
It’s important to remember that it’s not the objective facts of the event alone that determine how traumatic a situation is; it is the subjective emotional experience of the event. In other words, trauma is defined by the experience of the sufferer. The more helpless, powerless or fearful we feel, the more likely we will be traumatised.
Everyone’s reaction to a traumatic situation is different. The same situation that causes severe distress in one may have little impact on another. But immediately after the event, shock and denial are typical. Some people may minimise the impact, thinking they will just get over it with time, but trauma symptoms may take weeks or months to surface. Symptoms may can be physical (body symptoms), cognitive (thinking), behavioural (things we do) and emotional (feelings).
Physical symptoms may include:
- Racing heartbeat
- Aches and pains, headaches or nausea
- Disturbed sleep or insomnia
- Excessive alertness, on the look-out for signs of danger
- Being easily startled
- Cognitive (thinking) symptoms may include:
- Intrusive or repetitive thoughts and memories
- Flashbacks or visual images of the event
- Poor concentration and memory
Behavioural symptoms may Include:
- Avoidance of places or activities that are reminders of the event
- Social anxiety, withdrawal and isolation
- Loss of interest in normal activities
- Self-medication with alcohol or drugs
Emotional symptoms may Include:
- Numbness and detachment
- Anger, mood swings and irritability
- Anxiety and panic or panic attacks
We are also more likely to be traumatised by a stressful experience if we are already under a heavy stress load or have recently suffered a series of losses. And we are also more likely to be traumatised by a new situation if we have been traumatised before. Symptoms listed above usually reduce in intensity over a few days or weeks. However, if they do not subside and you seem stuck and are struggling to return to normal functioning, you may have PTSD. You may develop PTSD symptoms within 3-6 months of the traumatic event, but sometimes symptoms may not appear until years after the event.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
PTSD can be described as intense stress frozen in place, locked in the brain as distress that doesn’t go away. It is a real illness and can happen to anyone, including children, and at any age. One does not have to be physically hurt or directly involved in the traumatic event to develop PTSD. Susceptibility is greater if the event involves threatened or actual death or involves deliberate harm, including physical or sexual violation, either from a stranger or someone known to the victim.
Approximately 25% of those who have experienced a traumatic event develop PTSD and the percentage increases where there is a mental health issue, significant stress, a lack of social support, or a past history of trauma, including childhood trauma. PTSD can be very disabling and can lead to serious ongoing problems with social relationships, and the ability to work or carry out daily activities. Loneliness can be a spin-off from trauma or PTSD because people suffering from either or both can be difficult to be around. Other risk factors include anxiety, severe depression, suicidal thoughts or actions. PTSD requires professional help as it does not resolve with time.
PTSD symptoms can be identified within four main categories including Flashbacks, Avoidant Behaviour, Negative Thoughts and Mood, and Changed Emotional Reactions.
Symptoms of Flashbacks or Intrusive Memories may include:
- Unwanted and reoccurring distressing thoughts or memories of the traumatic event
- Flashbacks or reliving the traumatic event as if it were happening again
- Nightmares or upsetting dreams about the traumatic event
- Intense emotional or physical distress and reactions to something that reminds you of the event
Symptoms of Avoidance may include:
- Trying to avoid talking or thinking about the traumatic event
- Avoiding people, places or activities that remind you of the traumatic event
Symptoms of negative changes in thinking and mood may include:
- Negative thoughts and feelings about yourself or others
- Feeling numb emotionally
- No interest in activities you once enjoyed
- Feeling hopeless about the future
- Memory problems/loss, including forgetting important aspects of the traumatic event
- Trouble maintaining close relationships
Symptoms of changed emotional reactions may include:
- Irritability, anger outbursts or aggressive behavior
- Constantly being on guard for danger
- Feelings of intense guilt or shame
- Self-destructive behaviour, such as increase alcohol consumption or speeding
- Lack of concentration
- Jumpy, easily startled or frightened
Find out about other symptoms associated with PTSD in our material on Anxiety.
Complex Trauma (Complex PTSD)
Complex trauma is a more severe and long-term condition that occurs after prolonged and repeated trauma, usually trauma experienced in childhood. Complex trauma can cause problems with memory and interrupts the development of personality and identity. It also disrupts the individual’s ability to control emotions and form relationships with others.
Complex trauma usually results from children’s exposure to multiple traumatic events, often of an invasive, interpersonal nature, and the wide-ranging, long-term impact of this exposure. These events are severe and pervasive, such as abuse or profound neglect. They usually begin early in life and can disrupt many aspects of the child’s development and the very formation of a self. Since they often occur in the context of the child’s relationship with a caregiver, they interfere with the child’s ability to form a secure attachment bond. As adults, they inability to form secure relationships may be difficult for both the sufferers of complex trauma and the people they are involved with for example, intimate partners, children, authority figures etc. Relationships may have high levels of conflict and chaos; in essence the sufferers may repeat history. Only this time, as adults instead of the children they once were. Female adults may have experience strong fears of rejection and abandonment. Male adults may exhibit personality traits such as lacking in empathy.
- People with complex trauma can have a wide range of symptoms including:
- An inability to control their emotions
- Dissociation or zoning out
- Poor memory or losing memories
- Difficulties with their sense of identity or body image
- Physical symptoms that can’t be explained medically
- Disturbed relationships, high conflict relationships
- An inability to trust others,
- Easily exposed to abuse or exploitation
- Self-harm, suicide attempts and substance abuse
PTSD & Relationships
Humans are a pretty resilient bunch. We are guided by our survival instincts towards healthy living. However, some situations can disrupt this flow. For people affected by trauma and PTSD, trying to get back to health and normal functioning can be tricky. Long after the traumatic event is over, the sufferer is left dealing with many disabling symptoms.
PTSD symptoms can cause havoc in relationships. For a PTSD sufferer, the world is not really a safe place anymore. Trusting others becomes a challenge when you are battling with reactions that you can’t help such as being easily startled, feeling anxious or constantly watchful or fearful. Even though, you know what you feel is not totally logical, you cannot help yourself, which in turn, makes you feel angry for your loss of control.
PTSD heightens a person’s sense of fear and vulnerability. Once calm, even-tempered people can become irritable and display angry, demanding, controlling and aggressive behaviours. They might also feel guilty about what happened and may ruminate on what they should or should not have done during the traumatic event. Sometimes, sufferers may believe they were at fault and feel intense shame about the event. PTSD sufferers may be further impacted by feelings of detachment and irritability. Being jumpy, on guard and unable to relax would tend to make others around them feel the same way. They may also feel an increased need to protect their loved ones and may come across as tense, highly critical, judgemental, lacking boundaries, or demanding.
Dealing with symptoms can also take up a lot of the sufferer's attention which may compromise their own parenting, intimate relationship and ability to function at work. At the same time, partners, friends, or family members may feel hurt, cut off, or down because the sufferer has not been able to get over the trauma. And because a sufferer may be heavily dependent, these people may then feel pressured, drained, tense and controlled and may become angry or distant toward the sufferer. The sufferer's symptoms can make a loved one feel like he/she is living in constant chaos or tension, stress, anxiety or threat of danger. Living with someone who is suffering from trauma can sometimes lead them to have some of the same feelings of having been through trauma themselves.
So relationships can become difficult and strained. At the same time, relationships with others are very important for the trauma sufferer. Staying connected with family, friends and community is important for recovery, to prevent loneliness and isolation, to help with self-esteem, to reduce chances of depression and anxiety, and to reduce feelings of guilt. A relationship can also offer the sufferer a way to help someone else which reduces feelings of failure or feeling disconnected.
Additionally, long time sufferers of PTSD may have further difficulty in controlling impulses and intense anger and verbal abuse or physical violence is not uncommon in their close relationships. They may find fault and push away loved ones. Or in attempting to suppress angry feelings and impulses, they may avoid closeness thus destroying intimacy or friendships.
PTSD and trauma sufferers often report a decrease in relationship satisfaction. Sufferers of PTSD have higher separation and divorce rates than their non-PTSD sufferers. Common ways that trauma affects intimate relationships include (but are not limited to) the following:
- Both partners feel helpless and hopeless
- Avoidance of physical contact
- Family and friends may leave the sufferer alone believing they need space
- Isolation and loneliness
- Conflict or frequent arguments
- Decrease in emotional and sexual intimacy
- Feelings of frustration, anger, confusion, and sadness
- Increase in anxiety
How PTSD Treatment and Trauma Counselling Helps
In recent years, our world has been through many unfortunate traumatic events such as the Sept. 11 attacks, natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. While this has been horrible for many, it has enabled Psychology researchers to learn how to better treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Treatment of trauma and PTSD is a highly specialised area and it is important for you to locate trained professionals who deliver evidence based trauma treatment.
Apart from finding a specialist trauma Counsellor, of equal importance, is your need to be with someone you feel you can trust and be comfortable with. Because trauma affects your sense of safety and trust, the reestablishment of a trusting relationship with at least one person is a vitally important step in your treatment and healing. This person can be your Counsellor. You want to know that your Counsellor has the ability to hear your story. Sometimes, this may mean sitting with painful and unspeakable truths that you have told no one, as you probably thought no one would understand or are able to relate or even tolerate. You also want to know that your Counsellor can really listen, sit with your strong emotions and you will feel validated. Make sure your Counsellor travels at your pace.
Remember, an effective trauma therapist empowers you rather than imposes a cure. Ask yourself these questions, will my therapist offer me: respect, effective treatment, connection and hope?
Because trauma and PTSD affects your relationships, you might want to work with a Counsellor who has additional training and expertise in Couple and Family therapy to seek support from, heal and rebuild relationships with intimate partner and family members.
Beyond credentials and experience, it’s important to find a PTSD therapist who makes you feel safe, so there is no additional fear or anxiety about the treatment itself. Trust your gut; if a therapist doesn’t feel right, look for someone else. For therapy to work, you need to feel safe, held, respected and understood.
At ARM, our counsellors and psychologists have extensive training and experience in helping people heal from traumatic events, including childhood trauma and PTSD. Contact us. We can help.