A road traffic or train crash, an assault in the street, an accident, a natural disaster or a war-time incidents. These are usually recognised as being traumatic and often only happen once. However, we can apply the trauma to those have experienced domestic violence, those have had difficult childhood expereinces. All these experiences can leave the victims experiencing a variety of symptoms which could include nightmares, jumpy, tearfulness, and sleeplessness. Their memory and concentration can be impacted and there may be sense of withdrawing from contact with others. For some their life can be seriously impacted and their usual life totally changes. While for others they get on with their life and routine but find their are some difficulties which impact their functioning.
For some who have these symptoms they cannot remember or identify the event(s) that are causing them difficulties now. It could be that at the time you thought you got over what happened and got on with your life. So it can be confusing to understand why now. It could be that there has been a trigger (a reminder from the past) that caused a reaction.
The list below lists some of the common symptoms. You don’t need to tick everyone on the list to have been impacted. If you find you have some symptoms that you may want to consider what you do next. It’s important to remember to be kind to yourself and maybe rather than soldiering on you consider checking out your symptoms and whether you can get help with them.
- easily startled
- avoiding certain places or people
- difficulty concentrating
- avoiding thinking about certain events or people
- feeling numb
- flashbacks (the memory of the event comes back when unwanted and it feels like the event is happening right now) while awake
- being watchful
- reminders of an event cause you to have a pounding heart, to sweat or to have difficulty breathing
- panic attacks
When experiencing trauma and its aftermath there can be a sense of loss of control, of power. It is really important that when working with you and your trauma that you have control over the process. What speed we go at, this includes what happens in each session. To help you understand and establish some control over the symptoms you experience. For some that is enough and they do not want to work specifically with the memory. And if that is your choice then that is ok.
EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing).
This is a therapeutic process that was developed by Dr Francine Shapiro in the 1980s in the USA. It focus is for working with people suffering as a result of a traumatic event(s). NICE have approved EMDR for those that have experienced trauma. As EMDR has developed it is being used for other matters such as phobias, performance anxiety etc.
The therapy involves helping you to access memories of trauma in a safe and carefully managed way, then processing these memories to achieve a resolution of the trauma and a reduction or elimination of distressing symptoms. Memories can be images of a traumatic event and also physical sensations and emotions that stem from the event. The processing typically has the client bring to mind a part of the memory of the event and then you moving your eyes from left to right under the guidance of the therapist, a movement that occurs naturally during dream sleep. The memory is not spoken out loud during the process. As an alternative to eye movements, tapping, vibration or gentle auditory stimulation can be used. For more information please contact me or visit: www.emdrassociation.org.uk, or www.emdria.org.
Sensorimotor Psychotherapy is a body-oriented therapy that integrates simple body-centred observations and movements with traditional talking therapies. It has a strong focus on the present while also acknowledging what impact the past may continue to have. Clients who have experience of trauma or who continue to be challenged by difficulties stemming from their childhood often find this way of working helpful and empowering. Sensorimotor Psychotherapy in practice is based on the principles of mindfulness and seeks to pay attention to the whole person (mind, body, emotion and spirit), while its theoretical underpinnings include recent research into the workings of the brain and nervous system. For more information please contact me or visit: www.sensorimotorpsychotherapy.org.
Sue Martin Counselling & Psychotherapy, Supervision, Therapy in Clapham South, London, Battersea, Tooting, Balham, south west London, Clapham sw4, sw10, sw11, sw12