Coping With Trauma
us conduct our lives around the belief that we will be relatively safe. Catastrophic events such as what happened on the gulf
coast of the United States of America as hurricane Katrina unleashed powerful winds, and a high storm surge, for many people,
that belief was shaken. This natural disaster has destroyed property, taken hundreds of lives, altered the lives of millions,
and for very many people across the nation, undermined feelings of safety.
Events such as this are
outside the realm of people’s ordinary experience. Catastrophic experiences are not limited to war and natural disasters
(tsunamis, earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, flooding, etc.) but also include rape, physical or sexual abuse, fires, auto
accidents, school shootings, plane crashes, hostage situations, and exposure to other violence such as car-jacking, mugging,
and military combat. It is not only the victims of these events, but also witnesses, families of victims and helping professionals
who can develop severe symptoms of stress, which can potentially become long-lasting.
The anxiety experienced
during or immediately after a catastrophic event is identified as traumatic stress. When symptoms endure several months after
the incident, it is classified as post-traumatic stress. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is the term used by mental
health professionals to characterize people who have endured highly stressful and frightening experiences and who are having
severe distress caused by memories of that event.
Getting Help For PTSD
important to remember that traumatic stress is a normal reaction to very abnormal circumstances, and PTSD is just an extension
of that reaction. There is no shame in experiencing symptoms, nor is having symptoms viewed as a sign of weakness.
very treatable, especially when it is caught early. The idea behind the treatment is to process the traumatic event, as well
as manage the symptoms. A qualified Therapist can help the person with PTSD to find the words to talk about the incident and
to understand the feelings that accompany the experience, rather than to avoid things associated with the trauma. Though it
might seem natural to want to avoid painful memories, it is important to acknowledge the memories, feel the emotions and work
at processing them. When this happens, the trauma no longer controls the person. The person is now in control of the memory
of the trauma to the extent that she or he can approach it with flexibility and objectivity.