Trauma, PTSD, and Narcissistic Abuse Recovery
Most often when we hear the word trauma and or PTSD, we think of combat, rape, horrific accident or assault. It is not often that we associate trauma with child abuse and or neglect. When one is a victim of childhood abuse, the brain “switches off,” according to the International Trauma Institute. The individual’s that are traumatized as children often tend to find their way into abusive relationships as adults. They are drawn to abusers. It is normally because the self-esteem from an abusive childhood is often severely damaged and one feels low about themselves and seeks out others that do not treat one well. It is the norm for an abused child not to be treated well. It is how one may end up in a narcissistic relationship or a highly abusive relationship. If one continues to live with the abuse, detrimental health effects may occur, or one’s children end up damaging their self-esteem and the cycle repeats. This cycle is often repetitive through relationships as an adult unless one receives help. It is often that childhood trauma symptoms do not resurface until later in life. It is sometimes triggered when one goes through a recent trauma as divorce or children leaving the nest. The most beneficial type of support with the highest chances of recovery is Trauma/PTSD therapy.
Trauma/PTSD symptoms are divided into four separate clusters, including:
- Re-experiencing. Re-experiencing, or reliving, the traumatic event includes these symptoms: flashbacks, upsetting dreams or nightmares, emotional distress or physical reaction
- Avoidance- Actively avoiding people, places, or situations that remind you of the traumatic event
- Hyperarousal -negative thoughts and beliefs, anxiety, irritability and self-destructive behavior (alcohol, drugs, overeating, etc.)
- Negative thoughts and beliefs
Getting help as early as signs begin appearing may prevent normal stress from developing into PTSD. It may mean turning to friends and family who will listen and offer comfort. It may also mean it is time to seek out a mental health therapist that specializes in Trauma/PTSD. Another resource is turning to one’s faith or conjunction of all three.
Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) are the two most successful therapies in healing Trauma/PTSD
CPT is evidence-based and has been proven to effectively treat individuals struggling with PTSD. CPT retrains the brain to think differently about the trauma. Many associate PTSD with combat/war situations or a horrific car accident that is not always the case. PTSD can be precipitated by experiencing or witnessing any type of terrifying event, including accidents, crime, natural disasters and domestic violence. It can lead to debilitating anxiety, panic attacks, and even flashbacks. If you or someone you care for is exhibiting these symptoms, know that no one should try to deal with PTSD on their own, and there is no shame in seeking professional care.
EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is an integrative psychotherapy approach that has been extensively researched and proven effective for the treatment of trauma. A client-centered approach that allows the clinician to facilitate the client’s healing mechanism by stimulating the innate information processing system in the brain. The 8-phase approach to treatment seeks to address past disturbances, present triggers, and future anticipatory triggers. Through EMDR, resolution of traumatic and disturbing adverse life experiences is accomplished with a unique standardized set of procedures and clinical protocols which incorporate dual focus of attention and alternating bilateral visual, auditory and tactile stimulation. This process activates the components of the memory of disturbing life events and facilitates the resumption of adaptive information processing and integration.
In 1987, Dr. Francine Shapiro, Ph.D. discovered EMDR as she was processing a traumatic event in her life. As she thought of the event, she noticed spontaneous back and forth rapid eye movement. From that, Shapiro’s hypothesis evolved into the Adaptive Information Processing Model that is the construct that explains how EMDR works. This model purposes that old disturbing memories are stored in temporary memory storage, implicit memories in the form of images, emotions, thoughts and body sensations and are linked to each other beyond the client’s awareness. When triggered in the present, the memory is activated, and the isolated disturbing memory continues to present distress in the patient until it is processed or metabolized. Through processing with EMDR, the client processing the event and memory through bilateral stimulation and the material has been metabolized and no longer creates a disturbance. The client has worked through the trauma and reached a new adaptive level of functioning.