- flashbacks or nightmares
- anxiety or panic attacks
- withdrawing from work or family
- numbness, no ability to enjoy life
- avoidance of places, people or situations that are reminders of the trauma
- avoidance of memories, thoughts of emotions related to the trauma
- dissociative experiences, zoning out or losing time
- sleep disturbances
- irritability or anger
- hypervigilance, always on guard
These symptoms can be frightening and debilitating. Re-experiencing even parts of the trauma creates confusion or fear. A person may avoid being in public. Often friends or family members are pushed a way or shut out. Without an ability to sleep or escape memories that may or may not make sense, the ability to cope declines. School, work or relationships suffer.
Dissociation can be mild or more severe; symptoms of dissociation are the mind's way of protecting us by taking a person away for distressing situations, on a continuum of temporarily blocking their memory, to becoming so disconnected from their mind or body that it feels like an "out of body" experience.
Traumatic stress reactions can be
- Acute Stress Disorder--within the first 30 days after the event
- Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)-- over 30 days past the event, or
- Delayed PTSD--months or years after the event.
Counseling and treatment of PTSD or trauma reactions involves more than just talking about it. Repeatedly accessing the memories can be re-traumatizing and there are now several methods of treatment that are more effective when combined with traditional therapy. If you or a loved one's life is disturbed by such events or symptoms find a counselor who uses:
- Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy
- Development Needs Meeting Strategy (DNMS)
- Emotional Freedom Techique (EFT)
- Rapid Release Therapy (RRT)
- Cognitive Processing Therapy
It has been found that Prolonged Exposure Therapy is good for fear-based events such as accidents or war, but is much less effective for events like sexual, physical or emotional abuse because repeated and extended exposures to memories of these shame-based experiences can be re-traumatizing.
If you have questions or concerns about what you are experiencing, please contact a qualified professional for help. Additional information about trauma treatment can be found at www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/post-traumatic-stress-disorder/diagnosis-treatment/doc-20355973.