What an intense word.
I have always been drawn to the psycho emotional aspect of people. I tend to find myself constantly asking “What situation from their past triggered this..?” I started really thinking about trauma a few years ago, and then took a couple courses related to TCM and trauma this past year. This, and the next three blogs, will be solely dedicated to trauma and everything triggered by/related to it (physical pain, PTSD, etc).
So many people experience a trauma in their life, some of which we can’t even remember. There are a variety of reasons why we might experience a trauma in our life. It doesn’t matter if it isn’t traumatic to the person next to you, if it is traumatic to you then it is a trauma. “Trauma is one of the most ignored and denied cases of human suffering, it can be masked by many things”. But let’s start with the absolute basics of trauma.
What is Trauma?
We have all heard of the fight or flight response our body automatically goes into during a stressful situation. But there is actually another response called the ‘Freeze Response’. The Freeze response is a response to a traumatic stress opposed to everyday stress which triggers the Fight or Flight Response. “When the fight or flight systems cannot be activated, escape is physically or relationally impossible, fight is not an option, or traumatic threat is prolonged…” this is when the Freeze Response comes into play. One thing I find quite interesting, is that during the Freeze Response, the victim can have a decreased sensation of fear or pain – it is almost as if our mind leaves our body at this traumatic time in ones life. Once the traumatic event is over, there may be some imprints left on the brain related to the trauma.
Essentially, the nervous system is unable to return to equilibrium after a threat. Interestingly enough, brain imaging has shown that changes have occurred in the amygdala along with other parts of the brain, body and nervous system after a traumatic event. The amygdala will actually grow new neurons, this will result in it becoming more sensitive to subtle cues that remind the person of the traumatic event they have experienced. From this, the person can experience an inability to decide on safe or unsafe situations, and even everyday decisions can become challenging. Once this change has occurred in someone’s brain, it can be difficult for them to distinguish between the event that happened in the past and an event that is separate but might trigger the past event. Simply, they are always living in a state of trauma because, to their brain, there is no differentiation in time between the traumatic event and present time. Have you ever noticed someone (or yourself) seemingly ‘overreact’ to an otherwise stress less situation – this could be a trigger for them/you and they/you are instantly back in the traumatic event.
A stressful event is most likely to be traumatic if:
- It happened unexpectedly
- You were unprepared
- You felt powerless to prevent it
- You were unable to move or do something to protect yourself
- It happened repeatedly
- Someone was intentionally cruel
- It happened in childhood
Some common sources of trauma are the following:
- Physical Assault
- Sudden, unexpected death of loved one
- Domestic Abuse (physical/emotional/financial/psychological)
- Childhood Abuse (physical/emotional/financial/psychological)
- Motor Vehicle Accident
When it comes to trauma, it is important to keep in mind that the event does not have to happen to you directly in order for it to be traumatic. It can still be traumatic if you witnessed it or even learned about a traumatic event that happened to a loved one.
This is a heavy post, I know. It is a heavy subject. But the important thing to remember is that there are things you can do to help in your recovery.
Can Acupuncture help?
Yes. Very simply, Acupuncture can help. Not only can acupuncture help with the many physical symptoms of trauma but also with the actual trauma. Sometimes people experience a trauma that they don’t or can’t remember, acupuncture can help bring that trauma forward in order to work through it in a healthy way. Acupuncture can help by “bypassing the frontal lobes to open direct link to cellular memory – the wisdom and knowing of the body”.
If you have been through a traumatic event, or are recently dealing with the aftermath of a traumatic event – help is available.
Red Flags – Seek help from a mental health professional if you experience the following.
- Serious addiction (sex/drugs/shopping, etc)
- Eating disorders
- Persistent severe marital and/or sexual problems (more than 5 months)
- Severe/Chronic depression (more than 5 months)
- Grief of loosing a loved one that affects persons capacity to function (more than 1 year)
- Severe Insomnia/nightmares (more than 3 months)
- Flooding of traumatic memories
- Any Suicidal thoughts/impulses or other self destructive wishes/behaviour.
.Additional Blog posts in Trauma Series
Trauma – Part 2: Physical Symptoms of Trauma?
Trauma – Part 3: Trauma in Chinese Medicine.
Trauma – Part 4: Therapies other than Acupuncture.
Healing Trauma: A Five Spirit Approach – Lorie Eve Dechar
Trauma and Recovery in the Context of Chinese Medicine; Interpretations of current Neuro-biological and Psychotherapy Models of the Traumatized Mind – Darren Tellier
The Psyche in Chinese Medicine – Maciocia