Our Tangled-Up Reactions to Trauma

By Dr. Michelle Golland As a Clinical Psychologist who treats people with PTSD and trauma related disorders as well as someone who personally has been diagnosed with PTSD and complex traumas, I can testify to the experience of being tangled up in a messy and confusing presentation of trauma.   Our brains on trauma are misfiring […]

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By Dr. Michelle Golland

As a Clinical Psychologist who treats people with PTSD and trauma related disorders as well as someone who personally has been diagnosed with PTSD and complex traumas, I can testify to the experience of being tangled up in a messy and confusing presentation of trauma.  

Our brains on trauma are misfiring and slowing down in ways that are not helpful to our well-being and mental health.  The tangles of trauma can keep us traumatized because of the sheer confusion and overwhelm of our feelings.  Below I will define 4 common reactions to trauma us humans experience.  The tangly part is that we can literally be experiencing 1 of these or all of them and multiple at the same time…. I know where is our detangler and super good wet dry brush for our feelings when we need one!!!!

Re-Experiencing the Trauma-having sudden and unwanted traumatic memories that intrude into or even seem to replace what is happening in the current moment.  This can include experiencing nightmares, increase in heart rate and blood pressure and even leading to a flashback which is having the sensation that the trauma is actually occurring again.

Avoidance of Trauma Reminders-this is the attempt to avoid distressing memories, thoughts, or feelings as well as external reminders such as conversations about the traumatic event or people and places that bring the event to mind.

Negative Thoughts or Feelings- this is about how the survivor of the trauma may have obsessive thought patterns that help to maintain the distress of the traumatic event.  Unrelenting focus on the trauma event, depressive rumination, negative self-focus rumination and rumination of the trauma event before bedtime helps to sustain the PTSD symptoms for a survivor of trauma.  

Hyperarousal-this occurs when a person’s body suddenly and quickly kicks into high alert as a result of thinking about the traumatic event.  The symptoms include the following

            *Sleeping problems

            *Difficulties concentrating 

            *Irritability

            *Anger and angry outbursts

            *Panic

            *Constant anxiety 

            *Easily startled

            *Self-destructive behavior (drinking, smoking, fast driving)

            *Heavy sense of guilt and shame

It is important to understand at this current time many people in our country and many we love and care about may be experiencing PTSD symptoms due to the trauma trifecta of the pandemic, social and racial justice fights and the last four years during Donald Trump’s presidency.  Do not underestimate as a woman how the fear and chaos many of his policies and lack of leadership were designed to create within the United States and abroad.  It is important that we understand the signs of PTSD and then either for ourselves or to help others seek the treatment needed to help calm these unruly and tangled up experiences.   

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