Trauma Symptoms & Treatment
What Is Trauma?
Traumatic events happen frequently. Over half of us will experience trauma during our lifetimes. It might be a risk to our physical safety such as a car accident, assault or natural disaster. Or it might be an intense emotional experience such as witnessing violence (vicarious trauma), being verbally threatened or seeing a loved one struggle with illness. It could be an isolated incident or it could be several events over a period of time.
Everyone processes difficult events differently. Most people temporarily have some trouble coping but then with time they get better. However, if symptoms persist for months (or longer) and interfere with daily life activities, it may be a stress-related condition called post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The good news is that PTSD can be effectively treated to reduce symptoms and improve quality of life.
The symptoms of PTSD are generally lumped into four categories: intrusive memories, avoidance, negative thinking and changes in physical or emotional well-being. Do you (or a loved one) relate to any of the following?
- Do you experience flashbacks about the event?
- Do you find yourself getting "triggered" by reminders of the event?
- Do you have nightmares about the trauma?
- Do you avoid places, people or things that remind you of the event?
- Do you avoid talking or thinking about it?
- Do you find that you are suddenly having challenges relating to family or friends?
- Have you lost interest in activities that you used to enjoy?
- Do you feel emotionally numb?
- Do you find yourself fixated on the event and blaming yourself?
- Have you had frequent thoughts of death, harming yourself or suicide?
Changes In physical or emotional wellbeing:
- Do you feel angry for no apparent reason?
- Are your emotions more unpredictable since the event occurred?
- Do you startle easily?
- Do you find yourself being extra vigilant about your surroundings?
- Are you having trouble falling asleep and staying asleep?
- Do you have any unexplained aches, pains, fatigue or digestive problems?
If you identify with many of the above and they just won’t go away, you (or your loved one) may be suffering from trauma.
Common Types of Trauma
Therapists often use a few categories of trauma to help differentiate the experiences and provide some direction on possible treatments:
- Uncomplicated PTSD is when a single traumatic event has occurred.
- Complex PTSD results from long term exposure to traumatic events. This could occur in an abusive relationship or as part of a job environment (e.g. first responders).
- Developmental PTSD is complex PTSD that occurs in children, during their formative years.
PTSD, PTSI or OSI?
The trauma-related acronym that many people are familiar with is PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder. However, "disorder" has considerable stigma attached to it. Some people now use the term post-traumatic stress injury or PTSI. The use of "injury" is viewed as being more accurate and optimistic. PTSI is more "accurate" because the effects of trauma are very much biological - your body (especially your brain) is potentially injured when exposed to traumatic events. PTSI is more "hopeful" because like many injuries, the effects of trauma can be overcome with appropriate treatment.
Operational stress injury is when someone develops PTSI while doing their job or "operating". Examples would include first responders (fireman, police officer, paramedic, dispatcher), public safety personnel (nurses, doctors, corrections officers) and military service members or veterans. For public safety personnel with an operational stress injury, we offer our Resilient Living™ Trauma Day Treatment Program.
Are Some People More At Risk?
A traumatic event may affect different people in different ways. Whether someone develops PTSI and how severe it becomes might be influenced by:
- whether someone had a traumatic experience as child; adverse childhood events are generally thought to increase the odds
- repeated exposure to trauma
- experiencing pain or physical injury as part of the traumatic event
- having little or no support from colleagues, friends or family
- coping with additional stressors such as finances, relationships or grief.
What is Post-Traumatic Growth?
People who have experienced trauma can not only recover but they can also achieve personal growth. It is important to note that the growth is not from the traumatic event itself. Instead, it is a search for insights and the struggle to overcome the effects of PTSI that helps achieve personal growth.
Trauma Treatment Options
Stress-related injuries such as PTSD/PTSI/OSI are highly treatable. Therapy, counselling, and support can help you or a loved one learn how to better manage symptoms and improve their quality of life.
Boreal Wellness Centres offers different types of therapy including individual counselling, couples counselling, family therapy and group therapy in an environment that is safe and supportive. Our therapeutic approach will help you (or your loved one) with:
- understanding the symptoms and effects of trauma
- developing healthy coping strategies
- building resiliency and strength
Our Resilient LivingTM trauma group therapy programs include cognitive processing therapy, exercise, diet education, mindfulness training, and medication education. People with trauma disorders often benefit from the structure and behavioural activation provided by a group setting.
Let Us Help
Stress-related trauma injuries are highly treatable and the outlook is good for anyone who receives evidence-based care. Most people can learn to manage and reduce the impact of their trauma and restore function in their lives.
We have mental health therapists available to help you (or a loved one). We offer individual trauma counselling, couples counselling and group therapy treatment. Our Resilient LivingTM group therapy programs are unique. They use a multidisciplinary approach to develop insights and build skills. These tools help clients manage their emotions, regain functionality and achieve post-traumatic growth.
Resilient LivingTM Virtual Trauma Group
Boreal Wellness Centres offers a virtual treatment program for civilians living anywhere in B.C. who experiencing the distressing effects of trauma. The Resilient Living™ Virtual Trauma Group aims to improve daily functioning and quality of life for clients. This is achieved by reducing the impact of symptoms and emotional turmoil that can occur when a person experiences trauma.
As clients learn to draw on their strengths, they discover new paths for moving forward instead of being controlled by trauma. Upon completion of the program clients will have new resiliency skills, insights, and resources to sustain a journey of recovery that includes our weekly support groups.
This program is delivered through secure video conferencing to provide a convenient and safe therapeutic environment, and consists of 20 sessions, each 3 hours in length, over 10 weeks. Also included are 6 months of weekly aftercare support groups.
The Virtual Trauma Group is for civilians with a PTSD diagnois who are medically stable and have a low risk of self-harm.