Acute Stress Disorder (ASD) and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Acute stress disorder is diagnosed when the early reactions to trauma are severe.
The symptoms are:
• Intrusive memories, flashbacks and nightmares about the traumatic incident.
• Avoidance of places, people or any other reminders of the incident.
• A constant state of tension and “red alert”.
• A sense of unreality, numbness or amnesia.
If these symptoms persist for longer than four weeks the diagnosis of posttraumatic stress disorder is appropriate. This condition should be taken seriously because it can have far reaching effects on your life. It occurs in a relatively small percentage of people, approximately 2% to 7% of trauma victims, but certain types of trauma, such as rape, child abuse and military combat can cause a much higher incidence.
Symptoms of depression, anxiety, panic and substance abuse are often associated with PTSD, but these symptoms can also occur without PTSD.
Treatment for psychological and emotional trauma
In order to heal from psychological and emotional trauma, you must face and resolve the unbearable feelings and memories you’ve long avoided. Otherwise they will return again and again, unbidden and uncontrollable. Trauma treatment and healing involves
• Processing trauma-related memories and feelings
• Learning how to regulate strong emotions
• Building or rebuilding the ability to trust other people
• Revising your thinking about the trauma
The following therapies are commonly used in the treatment of emotional and psychological trauma and have proven effectiveness:
EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) incorporates elements of cognitive-behavioural therapy with eye movements or other forms of rhythmic, lateral (left-right stimulation). In a typical EMDR therapy session, you focus on traumatic memories and associated negative emotions and beliefs while tracking your therapist’s moving finger with your eyes. These back-and-forth eye movements are thought to work by “unfreezing” traumatic memories, allowing you to resolve them.
Cognitive-behavioural therapy helps you process and evaluate your thoughts and feelings about a trauma and to reprocess trauma memories. This involves revisiting the triggers of bad memories and gradually desensitising. This re-exposure often frightens traumatised persons off treatment, but with the help of a skilful therapist the process is not as painful as it may seem.
Finding the right therapist may take some time. It’s very important that the therapist you choose is specialised and experienced in treating trauma. However, the quality of the relationship with your therapist is equally important. Choose a trauma specialist you feel comfortable with. Trust your instincts. If you don’t feel safe, respected, or understood – find another therapist. There should be a sense of trust and warmth between you and your therapist.
We cannot change anything unless we accept it first. Carl Jung
TraumaClinic Counselling Cape Town, South Africa, 1 Hiddingh Avenue, Gardens 8001