Lisa Whitehead Therapy shares a blog post about Trauma

Trauma is used to describe an incident that is or is perceived to be threatening to a person’s life or bodily integrity. Traumatic events can include war, natural disasters, car accidents, rape or physical assault, childhood abuse or neglect, as well as witnessing or hearing about a trauma that affects another (secondary trauma or vicarious trauma). Repeated and interpersonal trauma such as childhood sexual abuse or domestic abuse can be particularly harmful. In addition, complex trauma is the term given to what might be understood as less obvious, but still very difficult to manage experiences in childhood such as ongoing neglect (including emotional neglect), chronic stress, lack of safety or consistency, living in an environment where there are issues such as addiction, mental health issues, social deprivation, violence or threat.

The trauma response is a natural part of our survival process, and some people recover from traumatic events without any intervention. Time, a safe and supportive environment and ‘normal life’ can be really helpful in facilitating recovery.

PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) is the name given to the condition when persistent intrusive symptoms related to the trauma continue to cause significant distress for more than a month after the trauma has occurred. Common symptoms include flashbacks, nightmares, low mood, anxiety, hyper-vigilance, anxiety, sleep disturbance, a feeling of detachment from others, difficulty concentrating, irritability and dissociation. C-PTSD (Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) is the name given to the similar condition as above but where there was no significant traumatic event that stands out, but instead the person may have grown up having to deal with many ‘smaller’, repeated traumatic issues, or lived in a home with chronic stress.

Trauma symptoms can be devastating and extremely distressing. Often people describe that they feel like they are going crazy, that they are no longer themselves, that their relationships are falling apart and that they no longer feel safe or able to cope with life. Some people may use alcohol, drugs, or other self-harming behaviours to try to cope with their symptoms, which can become problems in themselves.

This video explains how trauma impacts on us, setting off our fight, flight or freeze response.

When working with trauma I work to the 3 stage trauma model, focusing on stabilisation of the person before any exploration of the trauma itself. Stabilisation allows you to start to take control of some of the symptoms by learning how to manage them when they happen, and over time to reduce their frequency or intensity. This means that we are able to work together in a safe way, at your pace, whilst avoiding re-traumatisation (re-living or re-experiencing the trauma), or unnecessary distress.

I also use Polyvagal Theory, which is a therapeutic model developed relatively recently which I have found to be particularly helpful for people who are struggling with trauma symptoms. It provides a framework through which people can start to learn about their own nervous system, understand what they need and how to resource themselves to feel safer and more stable in their moment-to-moment experience. I have found that it is empowering for many people to realise that they can regain some control of their trauma symptoms and therefore feel more able to cope in their daily lives.

This video is a good starting point to understand what Polyvagal Theory is and how it works:

I don’t believe that people have to feel worse before they feel better and I am committed to ensuring the therapy I provide is safe and appropriate for the individual. I work in a collaborative way to try to find what feels safe and ok for you.

You can contact Lisa Whitehead Therapy here.