Trauma Counselling - Edmonton Psychologist

 Trauma is something that may happen so quickly and suddenly we do not realize what has occured until after the fact.  While many people are able to recover from difficult experiences by talking with friends or family, having a hot bubble bath, going for a walk with the dog, or through mediation, sometimes trauma sticks.  Sometimes it sticks, and we do not realize it is sticking to us until some small thing happens and we overreact.  Or, we know we have been traumatized, but no-one else seems to understand - or they are tired of hearing about it.  And sometimes we think we have 'dealt with it', and then it comes back to throw our whole life off track months, years, even decades later.  Trauma can be like that box of stuff we keep in a closet somewhere, always meaning to get rid of it, but never quite getting to it, and then something or someone touches the box and now there is a mess everywhere.  Trauma therapy helps to get the box moved into the sunlight, and cleaned out.

Trauma - let me count the ways

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Childhood trauma:  Some traumatized children are resilient and recover quickly with supportive parents and friends.  Some traumatized children display symptoms immediately, or symptoms that increase over time.  Others may initially seem to recover, but the trauma leaves 'hooks'  in their psyche that appear years later.  While some victims of childhood trauma may abuse drugs and alcohol at teens, others do 'just fine' until their own children reach the age they were traumatized.  Childhood trauma may lead to repeated failed adult relationships, workplace difficulties, depression, anxiety, gambling, over-eating, physical health issues, addictions, etc...

Some Types of Childhood Trauma: 

  • parental substance abuse
  • untreated/poorly managed parental mental health issues
  • parental neglect
  • parental conflict / domestic violence
  • death or loss of a parent(s)
  • abuse due to race, orientation, religion...
  • being bullied
  • sexual / physical / emotional abuse
  • accidents or significant injury (e.g. car accident/house fire)
  • exposure to war
  • medical trauma (e.g. surgery, serious or chronic illness)

 

Adult trauma:  While some individuals are exposed to trauma on a daily basis (e.g. firefighters, police, paramedics/EMT, Canadian Forces (CF) military active duty, nurses, doctors...) most adults experience trauma primarily due to accident or injury.  For others, the threat of trauma due to troubled domestic relationships, addictions issues, or toxic work environments (e.g. harassment, bullying, work overload, etc.) are an ongoing concern.  Whether the trauma is singular and abrupt such as a car accident, or ongoing, it may severely disrupt your life.

Some symptoms of adult trauma:

  • anxiety / chronic worry
  • hypervigalence
  • increased interpersonal conflict
  • trouble focusing / difficulty with task completion
  • avoiding family or friends
  • risk taking behaviors
  • increased substance use or substance abuse
  • losing interest in previously enjoyable activities
  • changes in eating habits
  • overreacting to minor threats or difficulties
  • difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • irritability
  • low mood / depression
  • flashbacks
  • memory / learning difficulties
  • avoidance of trauma reminders
  • feeling unsafe even when it is safe
  • over-protectiveness of self, children, or others
  • stuck thinking / looping thoughts
  • feeling 'frozen' or 'helpless'
  • increased substance use or substance abuse
  • addictive behaviors (e.g. gambling, over eating, over shopping, sex without intimacy, to much time lost on social media/internet...)

Acute Stress Disorder and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

Trauma symptoms that occur in the month following the trauma exposure may be signs of Acute Stress Disorder.  Trauma symptoms that continue or appear more than one month after the trauma exposure may be signs of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder.

Trauma Therapy

If you have been exposed to a traumatizing experience, and you are experiencing some or many of the symptoms listed above, or your friends/family/employer or others are concerned about you, then you may want to consider speaking to a trauma therapist.   Research shows that specific types of trauma therapy are the most likely to be effective trauma treatment.  These therapies include Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR), Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Prolonged-Exposure Therapy (PE), and medication.

Karin and Stephanie are Edmonton trauma therapists