Trauma, Anxiety, and Depression
It probably comes as no surprise that trauma can have a lasting effect on an individual's mental health, leading to anxiety and depression. However, with the right treatment, it is possible to heal and alleviate the symptoms of trauma. In this article, I will discuss the different types of trauma treatment and how they can help alleviate anxiety and depression symptoms.
Understanding Trauma and Its Impact on Mental Health
Trauma can be defined as a deeply distressing or disturbing experience that has a lasting impact on an individual's mental and emotional well-being. Trauma can come in many forms, such as physical or emotional abuse, neglect, or a life-threatening event.
It is essential to understand that trauma affects everyone differently. While one person may experience severe symptoms, another may not experience any at all. Trauma can also resurface at any point in an individual's life, causing new symptoms or worsening existing ones.
Traditional Therapy vs. Trauma-Informed Therapy
Traditional therapy can be helpful for some individuals dealing with anxiety and depression symptoms. However, when it comes to trauma, traditional therapy may not provide the support needed to address the root cause of the symptoms. Trauma-informed therapy, on the other hand, is a more specialized form of therapy that focuses on the impact of trauma on an individual's mental and emotional well-being.
Trauma-informed therapy is grounded in the principles of safety, trustworthiness, choice, collaboration, and empowerment. It recognizes the unique needs of individuals who have experienced trauma and provides a safe and supportive environment for them to process their experiences. I have completed extensive training to better understand trauma and how it impacts the human body and especially the brain.
Caught in a Time Loop
Trauma is a powerful force that has the ability to pull us back into the past, even years after the initial event occurred. When we experience trauma, our brains are hardwired to respond in a way that prioritizes survival. This means that the sensory information associated with the trauma is stored in a different part of the brain than normal memories. These traumatic memories are stored in a fragmented and disorganized way, making it difficult for us to integrate them into our normal memory system.
As a result, triggers associated with the trauma can cause us to relive the experience, even if we are in a different context. This is because the sensory information associated with the trauma is still stored in a way that is easily accessible to our brains. This can cause us to experience intense emotions, physical sensations, and thoughts associated with the trauma. We may not recall the events that caused the trauma directly, but our limbic system is pulling up the emotional memory and the flooded physiological response.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) for Trauma
CBT is a form of therapy that focuses on identifying negative thought patterns and behaviors and replacing them with healthier, rational patterns. I use CBT to help individuals learn cognitive coping skills to manage their symptoms and gain more control over their thoughts and influence over their emotions.
DBT is a form of therapy that focuses on developing skills to regulate emotions, improve interpersonal relationships, and increase self-awareness. I use DBT to help people manage flight/fight/panic/freeze responses, choose healthier behaviors, improve their relationships with others, remain more grounded and present in the moment, increase their baseline mood, and build a life worth living.
These skills are well-proven to directly address symptoms of depression and anxiety. They can also help with healing trauma by undoing the harmful expectations that the trauma has caused about yourself and the world. Another way these skills help with trauma is by helping develop grounding and affect regulation which keeps you present in the moment rather than being caught in the throws of the limbic system pulling you back into the past. In other words, they help your brain learn, “that happened back then and it’s over now.”
Additional Strategies to Complement Trauma Treatment
These may include yoga, exercise, meditation, creating art, emotional support animals, and trauma support groups. These approaches can help individuals to relax, reduce stress, and develop a sense of control over their thoughts and influence over emotions. Trauma recovery works best when each individual explores a variety of strategies and finds which ones work best for them to create a more comprehensive approach.