It’s a complex topic to discuss, but traumatic moments can happen anywhere. Whether it be physical abuse, manipulation, or bullying, trauma can occur within the family as well as the outside world. This makes it even more problematic for survivors to reach out or confront them for fear of breaking up the family or possible retaliation.
When these experiences are left unresolved, symptoms may manifest later in life. These symptoms may be signs of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD.
PTSD could develop immediately after the event, while others may develop symptoms later in life. It may be so ingrained in their life that they may not even differentiate between normal feelings and PTSD symptoms.
Overcoming family trauma can be difficult, especially when the abuse happens from a family member. Fortunately, you’re not alone. BetterHelp can connect you with hundreds of licensed therapists who specialize in helping patients overcome trauma. For more information on what events cause trauma and possible treatments, visit the link below: https://www.betterhelp.com/advice/therapy/events-that-can-cause-trauma-and-treatments-that-can-help-emdr-therapy/.
When talking about trauma, it’s helpful to know how it’s defined and what exactly happens in the brain.
What is Trauma?
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) defines trauma as “actual or threatened death, serious injury, or sexual violence.”
Some forms of trauma don’t fall perfectly into the DSM-5’s definition, but they can still cause PTSD symptoms. Witnessing or experiencing violence, losing a loved one, or even living through a deadly illness can be considered traumatic events though they don’t fit the official definition of trauma.
Genetics can play a role in trauma. Suppose either parent has a psychological disorder, like schizophrenia. Their children are more likely to develop the condition, making them more susceptible to PTSD after living through a traumatic event.
Biological factors are also another factor to consider. Suppose a person grows up in an area with armed conflict and is exposed to the risk of death daily. They may initially develop resilience to these symptoms but may be more prone to PTSD if confronted with any associated stimuli, like fireworks.
How Trauma Affects The Brain
Our brain developed a survival mechanism called “fight or flight” when faced with life-threatening situations. The adrenal glands release adrenaline to confront or flee from a threat. We become more aware of our surroundings and act quickly to avoid or eliminate the danger. Our brain releases cortisol to regulate our body’s functions and recover from the burst of adrenaline once we’ve escaped the real or imagined threat.
When a person experiences a traumatic event, their “fight or “flight” mechanism stays activated. The event doesn’t get resolved and continues to flood the body with adrenaline. This adrenaline flooding can develop into anxiety and other stress-based disorders that can cause physiological damage to the brain and body. Some of these symptoms can be:
- Loss of Sleep or Night Terrors
- Sweating Profusely
- Shortness of Breath
- Heightened Blood Pressure
- Loss of Appetite
- Extreme Panic and Fear
- Social Isolation
Triggers in the environment can also account for these symptoms. A child that experienced domestic abuse may develop deep mistrust as an adult. They may perceive any attempt at friendship as a threat and respond with violence.
Therapies for family Trauma
Fortunately, several types of therapies exist to treat symptoms of PTSD without the reliance on prescription drugs.
EMDR or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing is a form of therapy that lessens PTSD symptoms and helps patients confront their traumatic memories in a safe environment.
EMDR Therapy believes that trauma comes from unprocessed memories. Through therapy, therapists guide patients to process these memories adequately.
Over time, patients will notice a change in their symptoms and change the script their mind wrote about their traumatic events, so the narrative does not repeat in future circumstances.
CBT or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a form of therapy that focuses on a patient’s behavior and thought patterns to improve living standards.
CBT Therapy focuses on the present and how a patient perceives the world. Therapists examine behavior and thoughts to identify self-destructive patterns and thought processes. CBT can benefit people with depression, anxiety, or other stress-related symptoms.
Psychodynamic psychology is a form of therapy that focuses on emotion. Therapists focus on a patient’s emotional awareness and help patients identify patterns and emotional blind spots.
They will ask questions along the way to highlight recurring patterns or topics they may be avoiding. This type of therapy is more collaborative and gives more control back to the patient.
Living with trauma can change how we experience the world. We get stuck to our past and forget to experience the present. Sometimes, people seek an escape from their symptoms and find drugs or other substances. Substance abuse is a slippery slope and can worsen symptoms or develop severe side effects.
If you’ve experienced symptoms of PTSD or other stress-related disorders, reach out to a licensed therapist today. It may be difficult, but there is hope.
Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health- related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with BetterHelp.com. With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.