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Bouncing Back from Trauma and PTSD with Therapy

Bouncing Back from Trauma and PTSD with Therapy

Bouncing Back from Trauma and PTSD with Therapy


Trauma and PTSD are related. Trauma may develop after a trying experience that could be a natural disaster or an individual misfortune. PTSD or post-traumatic stress disorder, on the other hand, is a type of anxiety that can result from trauma. Not every person who has had a violent experience will develop PTSD, but it is a real possibility. In the United States, there are about 31.3 million people whose trauma led them to post-traumatic stress disorder.

The color that adds beauty to life fades with trauma and PTSD. Both can be heavy loads to carry throughout life, intensifying your fear after a traumatic experience and undermining your sense of security. These can take a toll on many aspects of life as the overwhelming emotion causes you to be fearful, miserable, restless, distressed, even deprived, guilty, and disconnected. The symptoms can incapacitate you, being intense, distressing and overwhelming. All these can crush your hopes and zest for life.

Evoking powerful emotions, trauma and PTSD can be real menaces.  Without treatment, these may steal positivity and quash opportunities, depriving you of many things, success and pleasures that you earnestly want in your life. You can bounce back from trauma and PTSD and move forward with hope in your heart. The key is to seek therapy to ease the symptoms and improve the outlook of the condition.


Trauma and PTSD

Trauma is a response. It can be generated when exposed to a disturbing and emotionally painful experience. It can be triggered by just one painful event, such as a bodily attack, natural catastrophe, or a tragic accident. It can likewise stem from a long, extended exposure to abuse and violence – childhood neglect, cruelty, armed conflict, bullying and even discrimination. The events are unforgettable, not because they seldom happen, but because they have the power to overwhelm your natural ability to adjust. When your fear is so intense, PTSD can’t be too far away.

PTSD can develop when the trauma is ignored. The condition was first observed on and associated with Vietnam War veterans. In 1980, it was officially recognized as a diagnosis, being included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 3rd Ed. (DSM-III). Trauma stayed on in the later revisions as a diagnostic criterion, Specifically, DSM-V says, the “Diagnostic criteria for PTSD include a history of exposure to a traumatic event that meets specific stipulations and symptoms from each of four symptom clusters…”

Trauma and PTSD can happen to anyone, and not only to battle-scarred soldiers. They can happen to young people, as well as adults, though the manifestations can be different. Among youngsters, the overwhelming symptoms can interrupt development or cause a disruption in their behaviors. Being a severe form of anxiety often associated with powerful feelings of hopelessness, vulnerability, and danger, even adults can be overwhelmed when they are gripped with PTSD. Among war veterans, trauma and PTSD can result in social reintegration being more difficult.


Signs and Symptoms: What Weighs You Down

Trauma needs to be processed by a behavioral health professional, such as a counselor or therapist. Unprocessed, you may relive the memory of the experience again and again in the forms of nightmares, memory flashes during your waking hours, or extreme panic. This may not happen immediately or soon after the traumatic event. It may take weeks, months, even years, before the signs and symptoms can be manifested.

PTSD symptoms can be in the form of an unrestrained “fight-or-flight” response, which can leave you feeling tired and jittery most of the time. You can also feel anxiety and depression symptoms, bouts of excessive panic and a higher tendency to commit self-harm. You may lose interest in many different aspects of your life. Your functioning, eating and sleeping can be seriously affected, as well as, difficulty doing your domestic and job-related tasks. You may avoid people and your relationships may be strained. You may likewise feel somatic pain, even when you do not have any medical issue.  

The symptoms are not always the same for everyone. You may develop a medical or health condition. Research shows that it can also increase your risk for other medical and emotional conditions, such as cardiovascular disorders and depression. Watch out, too, because you may experience “numbing or avoidance of the memory” response, which could be your brain’s unconscious effort to switch off the traumatic memory. This may not work. In fact, it can lead you to risky behaviors, such as substance abuse.


The Science Behind Trauma and PTSD

Being afraid is natural, especially after going through a life-threatening or extremely abusive experience. If it comes packaged with overwhelming emotions and a distressing life, it is also natural to wish that the overwhelming emotions stop. Unfortunately, this likely will not just happen. Trauma and PTSD are difficult to stop because the mechanisms involved in the reactions reside in the brain.

There are three areas of the brain that are involved in the reactions – hippocampus, amygdala, and prefrontal cortex. The hippocampus processes and stores memories. It also calms the amygdala, which is the stress evaluator/center. Meanwhile, the prefrontal cortex functions as the “executive-functioning area responsible for rational thought and decision making,” says the Defense Center of Excellence.

When something tragic or traumatic happens, the hippocampus responds by calming the amygdala. If the process doesn’t work, the experience can’t be properly processed as a memory. A trauma can also over-excite the amygdala, increasing the level of adrenaline to a dangerously high level. Both mechanisms can stop the hippocampus from processing and storing the memories of an experience, so they may return as flashbacks and bad dreams. 

In addition, when the neural connections between these areas of the brain are not functioning the way they should, memories cannot be processed and stored properly. Also, the prefrontal cortex cannot perform sound judgments and decisions because it is receiving wrong stimuli. The “fight or flight response,” a biological mechanism that allows you to respond to an emergency, is also processed in the brain. This is the explanation for certain symptoms, such as a racing heartbeat, rapid surge of energy, profuse sweating, and tingling or cold arms and legs, hyperventilation, poor concentration, and widened pupils.


Relieving Trauma and Improving the Outlook of PTSD

You must not take trauma lightly. While it may not automatically lead to PTSD, there is a 20 percent chance it will. The symptoms of the condition are incapacitating, and these can persist for a long time. Without therapy, the symptoms can continue and worsen, even extend for a lifetime. The overwhelming symptoms can be generated with each new traumatic event, and sometimes even when the trigger is unreal or just imagined.

As distressing and debilitating as it may sound, you are not without a choice. Know that traumatic experiences can be properly processed by an experienced therapist independently contracted with Carolina Counseling Services – North Fayetteville Office – Fayetteville, NC. Therapy can also help improve the outlook for PTSD. According to Grinage (2003) of American Family Physician, therapy can shorten the length of time for experiencing the symptoms and help resolve them years after the trauma.

The unfortunate parts of your past cannot change, but they should not haunt or hurt your present life because you can do something about it. While overcoming traumatic memories can be difficult, there are therapy options that can help ease your emotional baggage. With therapy, the traumatic experiences can be reprocessed, so the symptoms are reduced, and the outcome of the condition is improved. Whatever therapy option you decide on, it will be beneficial to receive it from a good therapist you can trust.  This is how Carolina Counseling Services – North Fayetteville Office – Fayetteville, NC can help. Call today to schedule your first appointment!

Serving Areas: Carolina Counseling Services – Fayetteville, NC (North)

Counties: Cumberland, Bladen and Sampson Counties, NC

Areas: Fayetteville NC, Ft Bragg NC, Pope Field NC, Sliver City NC, Linden NC, Bunnlevel NC, Erwin NC, Dundarrach NC, Rex NC,and Wade, NC

Zip Codes: 28311, 28395, 28390, 28356

Counseling Information

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Carolina Counseling Services – North Fayetteville Office, Fayetteville, NC

422 McArthur Road, Suite 2
FayettevilleNC 28311

Our Mailing Address:

PO BOX 9909
Fayetteville, NC 28311

Choose your Therapist

  • Becky Clark, MSW, LCSW

    Specializes in: (Ages 18+) Anxiety, Depression, Individuals, Couples, Geriatrics, Criminal Justice, Stress Management, Loss and Grief related to death, disability, divorce, deployment, “empty nest”, retirement and other major life transitions
    Insurance: BCBS, Tricare, Medicare, and Cash

    Credit Cards: Visa, Mastercard, Discover and American Express

    Location: Fayetteville, NC