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PTSD and Trauma - Treatment and Support

Trauma can impact all of us very differently so it's really important that the treatment approach is tailored to each person.  Following exposure to traumatic events, some people may develop symptoms associated with post-traumatic stress, potentially leading to diagnoses such as Acute Stress Disorder, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), or Complex PTSD. When left untreated, PTSD and trauma can lead to challenges in many areas of our life and affect our psychological and even physical wellbeing. Our team of PTSD and trauma informed psychologists in Melbourne are highly trained in a range of evidence-based treatments that can help people process and overcome trauma. 

What is Trauma?

Trauma can manifest in a range of different ways, from childhood trauma to complex trauma resulting from repeated exposure to traumatic events. In general, there are two categories of trauma: complex trauma and single incident trauma.

Complex trauma encompasses a series of traumas endured over an extended duration, often involving interactions with other individuals. Some examples include physical, sexual, or emotional abuse, neglect, exposure to community violence, or involvement in warfare. 

Single incident trauma relates to the experiencing or witnessing a singular impactful event, such as a car accident, natural disaster, or sexual assault. 

Following exposure to traumatic events, individuals may develop symptoms associated with post-traumatic stress, potentially leading to diagnoses such as Acute Stress Disorder, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), or Complex PTSD. Symptoms of post-traumatic stress and traumatic events can also sometimes manifest in anticipation of such events in the future, even if they don't transpire. 

Direct witnessing of traumatic events is not always necessary to evoke a post-traumatic stress response; learning that a close acquaintance experienced trauma can also trigger such reactions. Additionally, repeated or intense indirect exposure to trauma, such as that encountered by paramedics or medical personnel witnessing severe injury or death repeatedly, can lead to post-traumatic stress symptoms.

Signs and Symptoms of Trauma and PTSD

The impact of trauma can show up in a range of different ways and affect every part of a person’s life. Although different for everyone, some common signs of trauma and PTSD can include depression, anxiety, flashbacks, recurring nightmares, fear, emotional exhaustion, workplace challenges, and difficulties in relationships and family dynamics, among others. 

 

When left unaddressed for a long time, trauma and PTSD can also show up in a much more complex way that can cause a person to feel stuck and trapped in a cycle of avoidance, feelings of shame, guilt, depression, or a sense of helplessness within their circumstances.

 

We’ve put together a short list of the many ways trauma and PTSD can impact how we cope and function day-to-day. As Trauma and PTSD affects everyone differently, it’s really important to make sure that we don’t apply a one size fits all approach to treating trauma and PTSD. If you notice any of these signs below getting in the way of your day-to-day life, it’s important to remember that you’re not alone and that support is out there. 

Our team of psychologists have completed additional training in a range of evidence-based treatments for trauma and PTSD in Melbourne. 

 

Trauma and Intrusions

Intrusions, in the context of trauma and PTSD, refers to the unexpected, seemingly random, and often very distressing re-experiencing of traumatic memories.  These intrusions can appear as flashbacks, nightmares, intrusive thoughts, or intense emotional reactions triggered by reminders of the traumatic event. Intrusions can cause significant distress and include:

  • Intrusive memories.

  • Distressing nightmares.

  • Flashbacks about the trauma .

  • Feeling intense distress and extreme physical anxiety when exposed to anything that reminds you of the trauma.

 

Trauma and Avoidance

The relationship between trauma and avoidance is really complex as avoidance can help us avoid being re-traumatised and manage overwhelming emotions in the short term, but also perpetuate symptoms and prevent recovery in the long term. Avoidance can show up in many different ways, and involve:

  • Attempting to steer clear of any thoughts or emotions associated with the traumatic experience.

  • Avoiding any external triggers related to the trauma, such as places, individuals, activities, or discussions concerning the event.

  • Trying to numb emotions or distract ourselves. 

 

Trauma and Changes in Our Thinking

Trauma​ can significantly affect the way we think about ourselves, the world, and people around us. Trauma can influence how we make sense of the things that happen to us and can cause us to become stuck in a cycle of unhelpful thinking patterns. Some examples of how trauma can affect our thinking include:

  • A change in perspective regarding yourself, others, the world, or the future. For instance, thoughts like "I can't trust anyone," "Things will never be the same," or "I'm inherently flawed."

  • An inability to recall key details of the trauma.

  • Holding oneself or others responsible for either causing the traumatic event or failing to prevent it in some manner.

  • Inability to think and plan for the future. 

  • Thoughts of suicide or self-harm*.

 

*Please note that if you or someone you know are experiencing thoughts of suicide or self-harm and requires immediate assistance, please call emergency services on 000.

 

Trauma and the Impact on Relationships

Trauma​ can change how we think about relationships and how we interact with others. We can sometimes find it harder to trust others and reach out for support, become more avoidant and distant, or feel more and more anxious about protecting our loved ones. Here are some examples of the way trauma can impact our relationships:

  • Finding it hard to trust others and to ask for help.

  • Experiencing a sense of detachment or disconnection from both oneself and others.

  • Experiencing uncertainty within relationships.

  • Experiencing a sense of emptiness and isolation.

  • Feeling intense anxiety or a sense of abandonment about our relationships.

 

Trauma and Emotions

 

Trauma​ can bring up intense and uncomfortable emotions that change the way we experience the world and cope day-to -day. We can feel very intense emotions at times and numbness at others. Some examples of how trauma can impact our emotions include:

  • Experiencing emotions that feel overwhelming or perplexing.

  • Experiencing a sense of disconnection from one's emotions.

  • Experience profound feelings of guilt, shame, anger, depression, or anxiety.

  • Struggling to experience positive emotions.

  • Coping with emotions through behaviours such as drugs, alcohol, gambling, eating, sex and shopping.

  • Increase in feelings of anger and aggression.

 

Trauma and the Impact on our Physical Health

Trauma​ can significantly impact our physiological systems and increase the risk of developing a range of physical health challenges. Trauma triggers our biological stress response, and when left unchecked over a long period of time, this can contribute to heightened blood pressure, weakened immune systems, and more. Trauma can impact our physical health in a range of different ways, such as:

  • Hypervigilance and heightened startle response.

  • Insomnia and difficulty with sleep.

  • Changes to our stress response and increases in stress hormones. 

  • Feeling constantly restless or on edge.

  • Experiencing panic attacks.

  • Poor concentration and memory.

  • Fluctuation in weight and appetite. 

  • Feeling detached from your body.

  • Physical health issues.

how can a psychologist help

Why is it Important to Process Trauma?

Trauma processing allows individuals to integrate traumatic experience into their life story and sense of self in a way that promotes growth and resilience. It can help individuals make meaning of their experiences and move forward with a greater sense of empowerment and purpose. 

When unprocessed, trauma can lead to persistent symptoms such as anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress, and other mental health issues. Processing trauma through therapy or other interventions can help reduce these symptoms and improve overall well-being. 

Ultimately, processing trauma is a vital step in the recovery process. It empowers individuals to reclaim control over their lives, build a sense of agency and self-efficacy, and move forward with greater hope and resilience.

How can a Psychologist help with PTSD and Trauma?

Our psychologists in Melbourne and online are trained in a range of evidence-based techniques and therapies that help facilitate the trauma healing process in a safe and effective way. 

Although the treatment approach will look different for everyone, all of our psychologists aim to create a safe space where people can explore and process their trauma without judgement. We will never apply a one size fits all approach and will always make sure that the trauma treatments we use are backed by evidence and science.

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Ready to get started?

At Reimagine Psychology, our psychologists are trained in a range of evidence-based techniques and therapies that help facilitate the trauma healing process. We are trained in therapies such as EMDR therapy, Schema Therapy, Trauma-Focused CBT, and ACT and strive to find not only a good match in the therapeutic technique but also in the therapist-client relationship.

 

Ultimately, we believe that to successfully process trauma, people must feel safe and comfortable around the psychologist of their choice. That's why we will always aim to create a safe space where our clients can explore and express their feelings and thoughts without judgment in a safe and evidence-based way.

For more information or to book an appointment with one of our experienced Psychologists, call the team at Reimagine Psychology Melbourne on (03) 8330 5588 or email us on hello@reimaginepsychology.melbourne.

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