Trauma does not necessarily result only from combat during wartime or being involved in a major disaster. Many of us grew up in homes where there was domestic violence, alcoholism, or drug use. Many of us saw our mothers abused or were abused ourselves. It is difficult, when someone experiences trauma as a child, to build to build secure, trusting relationships as an adult. The child who fears what will happen at the end of the day when everyone returns home grows up to still be a “Vigilant Child”. This is an anxious child/adult who learns to scan the faces, body language and tone of voice of the adults to access the threat level, decide what kind of evening it will be, and to plan to keep a low profile if necessary. This Vigilant Child grows up to be an anxious adult.
20% of clients seeking counseling are looking for help with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Many of them are suffering with anxiety, depression, or troubled relationships, but haven’t identified PTSD as the source of their pain and suffering.
If you believe that you suffer from PTSD, do not despair. The study od PTSD is a growing field and there are treatment options. Also, understand that PTSD is a result of you feeling a normal reaction to an abnormal amount of stress. If your way of coping with the trauma has involved alcohol, drugs, or unsafe compulsive behaviors, you will need professional help to assist you with these symptoms and with the underlying pain.
There are many therapists trained to treat PTSD sufferers. There are also survivor groups and therapy programs specific to trauma. When seeking out professional help, shop around. In the 90s, trauma from rape and sexual assault received a lot of media attention. This resulted in many therapists treating sexual trauma in spite of having little training in this complex diagnosis. A survivor’s group can be a great healing experience. In our city, there are groups for survivors of war – and survivors of sexual abuse/assault.
It is more difficult to find a support group if you are a victim of a crime or a natural disaster. Those who lived through Katrina struggled to find these resources, but to an extent, we became our own support group. There are a lot of us and everyone has a story. I continue to be grateful that even now, 14 years later, when my client speaks of Katrina trauma, I am able to fully comprehend.
For information on where to seek help from organizations who offer group and individual support, please see the Resources page on this website.
An excellent book that addresses trauma, how it affects the mind and body, and the healing process is The Body Keeps the Score by Dr. Bessel van der Kolk.