Traumatic or distressing incidents can leave you feeling raw and exposed, as if you have no protection and the people and world around you are not safe. It’s like you’re on shaky foundation, and you don’t know how to move forward to solid ground. You likely relate with some of the following indicators of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Signs of PTSD
You feel on edge most of the day, frazzled, have a hard time relaxing, and difficulty staying focused. Emotions, physical sensations and/or images from the experience start to arise, feeling like you are re-living the experience, as if it’s is happening all over again. This might be in the form of nightmares. Sleep is difficult.
Going out of your way to avoid any reminders of the experience, or isolating yourself, has become a habit. You are on alert to your surroundings and startle easily. Anxiety is a constant and you feel like you’re going “crazy.”
Negative thoughts about yourself, experiences and/or the world flood your mind and impact your behaviors and reactions. Examples include, “I’m not safe”, “It’s my fault”, “I don’t matter,” “I’m dirty,” “I can’t trust anyone, not even myself”, “The world is dangerous,” or “There’s something wrong with me.”
You feel disconnected from yourself, others or your environment. Irritability and/or impulsiveness start to create problems or self-destructive patterns in your life.
There are other times where you might experience trauma, but you are not experiencing all these signs of PTSD. Sometimes the folks I work with don’t meet the criteria for an actual PTSD diagnosis. However, that does not mean the trauma you experienced did not impact you. You may still be significantly effected in your daily life by these experiences. Some people are aware of it, while others are not. Occasionally, symptoms show up later in life. Something new could triggers you. Sometimes early coping strategies or defenses become less effective. Often depression, anxiety and panic attacks, along with those other signs, are additional indicators that there is something more going on.
Complex PTSD, although not an official diagnosis in the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual), is more present when there have been layers of trauma. Either several traumatic incidents throughout your life or maybe something on-going like childhood abuse or neglect, or being in an abusive relationship. Emotional neglect can be particularly difficult to recognize because it more about needs not being met. It’s hard to know something is lacking if it’s never been there in the first place. In these cases, as an adult, a person has a hard time identifying and expressing their feelings and needs. Self-doubt might be very common for you, as you didn’t get validation or recognition of your own emotions, opinions or needs.
Therapy can help with Trauma
Although this might all seem overwhelming and that you cannot be “fixed,” I believe you can heal from these past experiences. If you are motivated to do the work to no longer feel this way, there is hope. Reach out and we can work together to first support you in better managing your symptoms, feel calmer, create a stronger sense of stability in your life, get to the root of the issue and begin to process the trauma when you are ready. I am also certified in Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), which is an effective, efficient treatment for trauma, if it’s the appropriate fit. Contact me today and we can talk more to see if it’s right for you.
I am currently in collaboration with Dr. Lourdes Viado in creating resources that are beneficial for Highly Sensitive Persons (HSPs) who have experienced complex trauma. Lourdes is and another therapist who also specializes in HSPs with trauma and host of the Women In-Depth podcast (where we have our series of episodes about HSPs with Complex Trauma). We have developed a questionnaire in order to best understand what’s most helpful in developing resources for this specific population.
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