Trauma refers to the way in which we emotionally cope with a distressing event. Traumatic events can include a disaster, accident, sexual assault, illness, neglect or any other impacting event. When people are unable to move past the event, these haunting feelings can negatively affect their day-to-day lives.
Lingering pain and/or fear related to the trauma can manifest itself in many ways. Some people may experience unexplained digestive problems or recurring headaches. Others may even develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This is associated with intense anxiety and a general feeling of being unsafe. Especially common among war veterans and survivors of abuse, PTSD affects roughly 7.7 million adults in the United States. A 2013 study out of Columbia University Medical Center actually found that nearly 25 percent of stroke patients experience PTSD.
Symptoms for Trauma
Common symptoms related to trauma disorders include hyperarousal, re-experiencing and numbing. Hyperarousal is associated with difficulty concentrating, sleep problems, irritability and panic. It leaves people feeling in danger all the time. Re-experiencing is when a person has flashbacks, nightmares and repeated memories of the trauma. Numbing refers to when a person becomes emotionally disconnected or isolated. Feelings of depression or withdrawal are common, as is an overall lack of interest in things that used make them happy.
Treatment of PTSD
When it comes to treating a trauma disorder, cognitive behavioral therapy is a common approach. This type of therapy involves learning to recognize negative thought patterns and replacing them with more positive ones. Exposure therapy can also be effective for some. This involves confronting triggers in a controlled and safe setting. For example, this might include visiting the site of an attack. Other research suggests that using MDMA (also known as ecstasy) in conjunction with psychotherapy can improve PTSD symptoms. Researchers believe that the drug helps people feel less fearful when reliving painful memories.