What is Trauma?
“Trauma” is the emotional and physical reaction caused by witnessing or experiencing deeply disturbing events or behaviors. A natural disaster, emotional or physical abuse or witnessing a violent crime, for example, are all traumatic events that can cause a short-term or long-term physical or emotional reaction. But origins of trauma can also be more subtle. Discrimination, being bullied or having an alcoholic parent are just a few of the less-obvious life experiences that can also lead to trauma. Causes of trauma include:
- Physical or sexual abuse or assault
- Witnessing or experiencing domestic violence
- Emotional or psychological abuse
- Neglect (failure of primary caregiver to provide basic needs)
- Victim of terrorist attack or war
- Combat experience
- Serious or chronic illness or medical problem
- Witnessing or being a victim of violent crime
- Natural disasters
- Forced removal from home
- Loss of — or separation from — a loved one
- Being bullied as a child or an adult or witnessing bullying
To learn more about trauma treatment at Malibu Vista, Call 844-874-6483
Although some people can experience a traumatic event and move on without apparent long-term impact, others will experience lingering effects, either large or small. For some trauma victims, certain events, objects or sounds will trigger a re-experiencing of the trauma or prompt an extreme attempt to avoid remembering. Some relive the trauma repeatedly, and suffer from physical symptoms like sweating, muscle tension and racing heart. Others feel continuously anxious and stressed and find it difficult to concentrate, eat, sleep and manage emotions.
When we have these symptoms for a few weeks after a traumatic event, the condition is called acute trauma or acute stress disorder. If symptoms persist beyond a few weeks, however, they could signal post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which is characterized by continuing high levels of stress and anxiety long after the traumatic event or situation is over. A third, very serious form of trauma, complex trauma, also known as complex PTSD, occurs as a result of repetitive, long-term harm or mistreatment. In many cases of complex trauma, the victim has been abused or mistreated, either in childhood or as a vulnerable adult, by a parent, caregiver or other person in authority.
Treatment for Trauma
Emotional trauma underlies many of the challenges facing women at Malibu Vista. At Malibu Vista, you will receive help and support from trauma specialists, both individually and in groups, so that you can work through core issues at your own pace, while receiving feedback and support from a small, close-knit group of women. Specialized grief and loss groups and a women’s empowerment group are a vital part of healing for trauma survivors.
Our multidisciplinary team of therapists treats all forms of trauma using a broad array of interventions that have been found effective in addressing trauma-related conditions. These interventions, all of which are tailored to the needs of each client, include dialectical behavior therapy, cognitive behavioral therapies, acceptance and commitment therapy, Somatic Experiencing, neurofeedback, stress management techniques and medication, as appropriate.
Research on trauma is constantly evolving as are treatment approaches and options. With proper help and up-to-date treatment, you can regain your sense of safety, confidence, trust and control and develop healthy coping skills to manage the painful emotions so common in the aftermath of trauma.
Types of Trauma
Just as there are many different types of traumatic experiences, there are also many different ways that people respond to it and many different disorders that arise from it. Thus, trauma and trauma treatment can be complex. At Malibu Vista, we treat all forms, including acute trauma, post-traumatic stress disorder and complex trauma with the most up-to-date evidence-based therapies available.
Acute trauma, also known as acute stress disorder, is usually caused by a one-time terrifying or threatening event, such as an accident, assault or catastrophic occurrence that causes intense emotional pain or physical duress. The traumatic event sparks feelings of extreme fear that persist for up to a month after the event is over. Acute stress disorder can interfere with relationships and job functioning and cause general withdrawal, as the person begins to perceive social and work situations as suddenly threatening. In some cases, acute trauma will go away on its own, but in other cases the symptoms will linger, worsen over time and evolve into anxiety, depression or PTSD.
Signs of acute trauma include:
- Recurrent, involuntary memories of the event
- Sleep disturbances or recurrent, disturbing dreams about the event
- Altered sense of reality, in a daze
- Inability to remember parts or all of the event
- Mild-to-moderate anxiety surrounding the event
- Irritability or unprovoked angry outbursts
- Panic attacks
- Chaotic or impulsive behavior
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
PTSD is a severe form of anxiety triggered by a terrifying or threatening event. The normal reaction to danger is “fight or flight,” which ensures our safety and survival and dissipates when the crisis is over. With PTSD, rather than getting better over time, symptoms get worse or linger for months or more, making it difficult to function day-to-day. The stress and fear persist even when the danger is gone.
PTSD can develop at any age. Some of the events that can lead to PTSD include military service, a serious accident, being diagnosed with a serious illness, sudden loss of a loved one, a natural or manmade disaster, physical or emotional abuse and sexual assault.
For some, symptoms of PTSD are ongoing, and for others, symptoms occur sporadically, sometimes triggered when the individual encounters reminders of the traumatic event (e.g., seeing a story in the news about a natural disaster or an assault may be a reminder of one’s own experience), although symptoms can also arise when the person suffering from PTSD feels alone, overwhelmed or at risk of harm. We are more likely to struggle with trauma if we are under heavy stress, recently suffered a series of losses or have been traumatized before, especially at a young age. Symptoms sometimes arise weeks or months after the trauma reminder, and may come and go depending on general stress levels.
People who have PTSD run a greater risk of substance abuse, depression, eating disorders and other mental health issues, as well as physical illnesses such as heart disease and chronic pain.
Signs of PTSD include:
- Frightening thoughts
- Avoiding reminders of the experience, including thinking or talking about it
- Feeling disconnected or emotionally numb
- Feelings of anger, guilt, worry or depression
- Difficulty forming close relationships
- Loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities
- Difficulty remembering the event
- Feeling constantly on guard
- Being easily startled
- Difficulty sleeping
- Substance abuse or other addictive behavior
Life experiences, including previous trauma as well as genetic predispositions for anxiety, depression or other mental illnesses, may increase the likelihood of developing PTSD. Other risk factors include temperament, brain chemistry and lack of a social support system.
Ongoing traumatic events, such as lengthy combat experience, long-term physical or emotional abuse, particularly if it’s at the hands of a parent or caregiver, chronic illness or even a series of unrelated traumatic events, can cause complex trauma, also known as complex PTSD. If left untreated, complex trauma can lead to mood disorders, chronic depression or other mental health problems.
Complex trauma tends to become more deeply rooted with each traumatic event, as the individual experiencing the trauma resorts to more and more maladaptive coping skills. We might respond to repeated trauma by shutting down our emotions, closing off others, or drowning intense feelings in drugs, alcohol or some other form of escape.
Signs of complex trauma include:
- Frightening thoughts
- Feeling emotionally numb
- Inability to form meaningful relationships
- Sudden, unexplained or irrational rage
- Chronic anxiety or depression
- Difficulty remembering traumatic events
- Easily startled
- Sleep disturbances
- Substance abuse or other addictive behavior
Our therapists at Malibu Vista mental health treatment center have extensive training and experience treating trauma. We understand how trauma inflicts its damage and can lead to long-term mental health issues, such as anxiety, depression and personality disorders as well as substance abuse and behavioral addictions. We also understand how important it is to address it from all angles. That’s why we offer a comprehensive program for the treatment of trauma and we do it in a highly supportive, deeply validating environment of respect and care.
Reconnect with your passion for life. Call Malibu Vista 844-874-6483