COUNSELLING BLOG

Posts tagged trauma

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How to Cope with Flashbacks

Flashbacks are memories of past traumas. They can occur in a number of different forms – as sounds, images, smells, body sensations, numbness (or a lack of sensations). Often they’re accompanied by a feeling panic, where the individual feels trapped and completely powerless. Flashbacks can also occur in dreams. Because the sensations are so frightening and intense – and are unrelated to what’s happening in the present - the person often feels as if they’re going crazy.

What to do to cope with flashback:

1. Tell yourself that you are having a flashback – that it will pass in time – and soon everything will return to normal.

2. Remind yourself that the worst is over – as these terrifying feelings are re-experienced memories. The event that took place is now lodged in the past, and you managed to survive it, and will survive it now.

3. Allow yourself to express the powerful feelings of terror, panic, hurt and/or rage. It is right that you honour your experience.

4. Ground yourself firmly in the here-and-now. Breathe deeply. Notice the sounds and sensations around you in the room. Allow the feelings of panic and terror to slowly dissipate. Keep breathing deeply, and exhaling deliberately. Allow a sense of calm to gradually replace the faintness, shakiness, dizziness and tightness.

5. Reorient yourself. Keep focusing on what you can see, hear, feel, smell, touch and feel in the present. Feel the chair supporting you. Use your five senses to bring you back to this point in time.

6. Speak to your terrified inner child. Reassure them that they are going to be OK. Tell them they are safe in the present. They are not trapped. They can escape at any time.

7. Seek professional support to deal with your flashbacks. Find an experienced therapist who is trained to guide you to a place of healing. You do not have to do cope with this alone. There is help available for you.

Filed under flashbacks trauma counselling psychology therapy mental health mental illness inspiration self help self improvement online counselling college

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False Memory Syndrome or Planted Memories?

False memory syndrome is the belief that one remembers events, especially traumatic events, which have not actually occurred. It is currently viewed as being extremely controversial.

Planted memories differs from false memories in that the person is believed to have been in a highly suggestible stated in therapy, perhaps because the therapist was using a technique like hypnotherapy. It is therefore believed that the person may be genuinely unable to distinguish between memories are true and those which are not. This results in something known as confabulation - a memory disturbance where the person describes occurrences and events that never happened, believing them to be factually accurate. That is, there is no intent to lie or deceive as the person doesn’t think the information is false. Interestingly, they’re usually very confident about their recollections, despite the evidence that contradicts their accuracy.

Recovered memory therapy is the term used to describe therapeutic interventions that lead to the creation false memories and false memory syndrome. These are usually some form of hypnosis, or it may be combining loaded questions with relaxation methods. Typically these questions arise from the therapist’s belief that the client’s problems are directly caused by childhood trauma and or serious abuse (usually sexual abuse). Unfortunately, these memories are then stored in the brain – and may persist for years, and cause serious problems – despite the fact that the event did not take place.

Filed under counselling psychology therapy PTSD trauma abuse false memories mental health mental illness online counselling college

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Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is an extreme response to a severe stressor. It involves re-experiencing the traumatic event, avoiding stimuli associated with the trauma, a numbing of emotional responses, and symptoms of increased arousal. Examples of events that can lead to PTSD include: bombings, ferry or airplane disasters, war, acts of terrorism, witnessing a death, rape, physical assault and natural disasters. Most people will experience PTSD symptoms within 3 months of the traumatic event. However, some will have buried their experience so deeply that their symptoms may not surface for many years – but when they do they are powerful and incapacitating.

The symptoms which define this disorder can be summarised as follows:

1. Re-experiencing the crisis or trauma: Most commonly, the person is confronted with intense, overwhelming and recurrent flashbacks or night terrors of the traumatic event itself. Thus, they feel as if they’re re-living the trauma, and they have the same reactions as they had when the trauma occurred. For many people, the anniversary of the trauma, or being in situation that reminds of what happened, can unleash powerful emotions and feelings of distress.

2. Avoidance and emotional numbing: People who suffer from PTSD will generally do all they can to avoid situations which remind them of the traumatic experience. Emotional numbing is usually experienced immediately after the event. Also, usually the person withdraws from others (including their close friends and family), and derive no pleasure from their job, or other interests. They find it hard to feel and deal with emotions, especially those related to trust and intimacy. They also struggle with guilt, despair and meaninglessness. In rare cases, the person may experience blackouts and or may dissociate from everyday life.

3. Heightened vigilance and alertness: This prevents the individual from relaxing, concentrating and completing normal tasks. There is usually a marked change in their sleep patterns too – in the form of insomnia, disturbed sleep, wakening early in the morning or being troubled by nightmares. Many sufferers are jumpy, highly reactive, and much more aggressive than they were previously.

PTSD sufferers may also experience depression, generalised anxiety disorder, anxiety attacks, panic attacks, obsessive-compulsive disorder, dizziness, shaking, chest pains, stomach problems and memory problems. It is not uncommon for sufferers to develop a dependency on drugs or alcohol.

In terms of causes, PTSD is a response to a psychologically traumatic event which involves actual or threatened serious injury and death to the person - or to others. The triggering event can be either an isolated incident or something distressing that is witnessed or experienced repeatedly. The victim may have been alone, or have been part of a large group.

It should be noted that the risk of PTSD increases with increased exposure to traumatic events; struggling with emotional issues prior to the trauma; lacking social support; being female, a child or an adolescent; having learning disabilities; or having witnessed or experienced violence in the home. Also, disaster-preparedness (professional training for emergency service workers) reduces the risk of developing the disorder.

Treatment for PTSD usually takes the form of medication for depression, anxiety or sleep disorder. CBT and exposure therapy are also popular. In exposure therapy the person is encouraged to re-live the trauma under controlled conditions with the counsellor at hand. Chance of recovery in higher when the disorder is diagnosed early, treatment is prompt, and the person has a strong support system in place.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is an extreme response to a severe stressor. It involves re-experiencing the traumatic event, avoiding stimuli associated with the trauma, a numbing of emotional responses, and symptoms of increased arousal. Examples of events that can lead to PTSD include: bombings, ferry or airplane disasters, war, acts of terrorism, witnessing a death, rape, physical assault and natural disasters. Most people will experience PTSD symptoms within 3 months of the traumatic event. However, some will have buried their experience so deeply that their symptoms may not surface for many years – but when they do they are powerful and incapacitating.

The symptoms which define this disorder can be summarised as follows:

1. Re-experiencing the crisis or trauma: Most commonly, the person is confronted with intense, overwhelming and recurrent flashbacks or night terrors of the traumatic event itself. Thus, they feel as if they’re re-living the trauma, and they have the same reactions as they had when the trauma occurred. For many people, the anniversary of the trauma, or being in situation that reminds of what happened, can unleash powerful emotions and feelings of distress.

2. Avoidance and emotional numbing: People who suffer from PTSD will generally do all they can to avoid situations which remind them of the traumatic experience. Emotional numbing is usually experienced immediately after the event. Also, usually the person withdraws from others (including their close friends and family), and derive no pleasure from their job, or other interests. They find it hard to feel and deal with emotions, especially those related to trust and intimacy. They also struggle with guilt, despair and meaninglessness. In rare cases, the person may experience blackouts and or may dissociate from everyday life.

3. Heightened vigilance and alertness: This prevents the individual from relaxing, concentrating and completing normal tasks. There is usually a marked change in their sleep patterns too – in the form of insomnia, disturbed sleep, wakening early in the morning or being troubled by nightmares. Many sufferers are jumpy, highly reactive, and much more aggressive than they were previously.

PTSD sufferers may also experience depression, generalised anxiety disorder, anxiety attacks, panic attacks, obsessive-compulsive disorder, dizziness, shaking, chest pains, stomach problems and memory problems. It is not uncommon for sufferers to develop a dependency on drugs or alcohol.

In terms of causes, PTSD is a response to a psychologically traumatic event which involves actual or threatened serious injury and death to the person - or to others. The triggering event can be either an isolated incident or something distressing that is witnessed or experienced repeatedly. The victim may have been alone, or have been part of a large group.

It should be noted that the risk of PTSD increases with increased exposure to traumatic events; struggling with emotional issues prior to the trauma; lacking social support; being female, a child or an adolescent; having learning disabilities; or having witnessed or experienced violence in the home. Also, disaster-preparedness (professional training for emergency service workers) reduces the risk of developing the disorder.

Treatment for PTSD usually takes the form of medication for depression, anxiety or sleep disorder. CBT and exposure therapy are also popular. In exposure therapy the person is encouraged to re-live the trauma under controlled conditions with the counsellor at hand. Chance of recovery in higher when the disorder is diagnosed early, treatment is prompt, and the person has a strong support system in place.

Filed under post traumatic stress disorder PTSD anxiety disorders counselling therapy psychiatry psychology abnormal psycholgy online counselling college stress trauma