Maybe you grew up with a dysfunctional family and learned not to talk or feel. You have always been in the role of fixer and you are ready to stop.
You feel like you aren’t enough, you don’t do enough — and yet doing too much overwhelms you. Sometimes you feel like you are drowning.
Some days it is all you can do to just survive. You find yourself full of self-criticism, guilt and shame. You have a tonne of resentment and you feel broken.
On the outside, your life looks fine, maybe even great but you feel detached, numb. You work so hard to keep it a secret from everyone, to keep yo the appearance of being fine. You wonder sometimes, does anyone even see you?
This is what it can feel like to live with symptoms of trauma (PTSD) or complex trauma (CPTSD). Trauma is often the underlying cause to the anxiety and depression symptoms that many people suffer from.
What is Trauma?
There are many events and situations that occur throughout life that are classified as trauma. Trauma is any situation that our brain finds overwhelming. These are sometimes events that are out of the ordinary and can be single events, but often they are prolonged or a series of events and sometimes people have a more difficult time identifying these as "trauma". Situations that are classified as trauma may include early childhood emotional abuse, physical or sexual abuse or neglect, domestic abuse, living in war or conflict, any type of real or threatened physical or sexual violence.
Traumatic experiences can also include exposure that occurred during military service or on the job as a first responder, nurse (or any other type of person working in emergency services), in which case the resulting symptoms are most often classified as operational stress injuries. Trauma can also include workplace accidents, car accidents, the list is endless. Trauma is less about the experience itself and more about the impact it has on the individual.
Trauma physically changes our brains. When you experience a traumatic event, your mind changes and areas of your brain that used to work in a certain way actually change because of what is called hyperarousal (being overly activated) due to the traumatic event. There is an area of the brain that acts as an alarm for all of us, to notify us of danger and so when you hear the terms fight, flight or freeze this is what is being activated. What happens after trauma is that this little alarm (the amygdala) becomes overactive and so instead of only alerting is to real danger it is sounding the alarm too often, making you feel unsafe. This makes life very challenging. It's common to wonder, is it even possible to recover from PTSD? The answer is yes. This is overly simplified to what is actually happening in your brain and body but sometimes it helps people to have a basic understanding.
Trauma Therapy from Etobicoke, ON
Official PTSD Symptoms from the DSM V
Being exposed to death, threatened death, actual or threatened serious injury, or actual or threatened sexual violence through:
Witnessing the trauma
Learning that a relative or close friend was exposed to a trauma
Indirect exposure to aversive details of the trauma, often while performing professional duties (e.g., first responders)
Unwanted upsetting memories
Emotional distress after exposure to traumatic reminders
Physical reactivity after exposure to traumatic reminders
Avoidance of trauma-related thoughts or feelings or external reminders
Negative alterations in cognitions and mood
Inability to remember important parts of the traumatic event
Overly negative thoughts and assumptions about oneself or the world
Exaggerated blame of self or others for causing the trauma
Loss of interest in things you used to enjoy
Difficulty experiencing positive emotions
Irritability or aggression
Reckless or destructive behaviour
Exaggerated startle reaction
Do I Need To Have All of These Symptoms? Do I Need A Diagnosis of PTSD?
You may wonder, if you don't have all of the symptoms above, does that mean you didn't experience trauma. Of course not! This is the official criteria for a diagnosis post-traumatic stress disorder, but even to have a diagnosis not all of the symptoms are required. I also don't make diagnoses, a doctor, psychologist or psychiatrist does that. You can absolutely experience trauma and not meet the threshold for a PTSD diagnosis, in fact, this is not uncommon. Trauma can impact people differently and the symptoms you experience can also depend on the type of trauma and when it occurred.
For example, you may be someone who experienced emotional abuse in your childhood. Some of the symptoms above might resonate with you but perhaps you don't experience flashbacks or nightmares. You may find that your issues occur more in the context of relationships with others, trying to make people happy, feeling as if you are always waiting for something to go wrong, and over apologizing.
What is Trauma Therapy or PTSD Treatment?
The first step in trauma therapy is always about feeling safe (physically and emotionally). Regardless of whether it was in early childhood or occurred more recently, this is always the most crucial first step and cannot be rushed. We will work together to find strategies that work for you and ways to help your alarm centre re-calibrate so it is not always sending you danger signals. We will also talk about some of the thoughts that you have and how they may be impacting your current state of being.
If your trauma happened many years ago, we will talk about how this impacts your life today, and once we have established a therapeutic relationship where you feel safe, we will begin to get to the root of your trauma. This does not necessarily mean retelling your story but rather the impact that it had on you then, the feelings associated with the event(s) and how it continues to impact you in the here and now.
The Benefits of Trauma-focused Therapy Include:
Re-establishing a sense of safety
Learning about trauma
Identifying triggers and developing healthy coping skills
Reduction in trauma-related symptoms and improvement in daily functioning
What To Expect
Your first session will involve an initial assessment of your well being as well as an intake of your personal history and background. Subsequent therapy sessions are 45 minutes in length and are unique to each individual's treatment plan.
This is an important consideration as each person's experience in therapy will be different and may depend on factors like:
Level of overall wellness (chronic pain, diabetes, cancer etc.)
Emotional state (stability, risk-taking or other behaviours that may result in harm to self or others)
Life circumstances- one's support system and romantic relationship status, if there are dependent children, employment status and the type of profession are all factors that can be considered protective or stressors.
Prior experience in therapy is also something to factor in. No one wants to waste their time repeating something that they found unhelpful the first go-around which is why it is important to tailor treatment to individual needs.
If you have further questions, click the button below and book a free 15 -minute consultation. This is also where you can book your first session.
Trauma Counselling in Etobicoke
Trauma counselling services offered at Kennedy McLean Counselling & Psychotherapy Services include psychodynamic psychotherapy for trauma, trauma therapy, phase one trauma therapy, counselling for trauma, psychotherapy for complex PTSD