Monday, October 12, 2009

Recovery from Trauma, Stress and Abuse

There are many articles on trauma and stress. This one is excellent and addresses many of the issues we face in our relationships. It is interesting to note that the field of psychology has determined to give a diagnosis to the condition we in recovery have long termed codependency. As we practice our tools and increase our self esteem we overcome so many of these difficulties in our daily lives. Here are some excerpts from the article for our review.

The Effects of Prolonged Psychological Trauma and Abuse by Brian Trappler, M.D.

There was a time when mental health professionals attempted to fit all trauma-related symptoms into the single category of PTSD. Several years after PTSD was adopted , studies revealed that this diagnosis captured only a limited scope of post-traumatic symptoms.
Several studies of traumatized children reported patterns of unmotivated aggression and impulse control, dissociative symptoms and difficulties negotiating interpersonal relationships. Others studied victims who had survived rape or incest during childhood. Their findings also illustrated problems not captured in PTSD. Instead, these victims appeared to have a compromised sense of safety, self worth, and an inability to self-soothe.

People who have been in any type of prolonged abuse situation, including hostages, abused children and battered spouses, may continue to feel and behave as victims as a result of the sense of danger they felt when they were in the abusive situation... it never passed from their conscious or unconscious memory. Throughout their lives, they describe themselves as feeling emotionally dead inside... other people may see them as being detached. Almost twenty years after psychological effects of trauma had been squeezed into the label of PTSD, there emerged a new term for this syndrome: Complex Trauma.

The following symptoms may occur in people with prolonged histories of inter-personal trauma: disturbances in perception of self and others, patterns of trauma re-enactment, inability to regulate mood, the adoption by victims of the belief systems of their tormentors, a loss of a coherent sense of self, an inability to engage in stable or trusting relationships, and an inability to free themselves from the abuse dynamic. While some victims became abusers themselves, others appeared to become compulsively attracted to predators. By so doing, they continued a repetition-compulsion of their childhood abuse into their adult relationships. Complex trauma may cause changes in the following areas of development:

1. Alterations in mood and impulse control
2. Alterations in attention or consciousness
3. Symptoms of a somatic nature
4. Alterations in self-perception
5. Alterations in relations with others
6. Alterations in perception of the perpetrator
7. Alterations in systems of meaning

Complex Trauma may cause damage to the following areas of interpersonal functioning:

1. The capacity to feel secure and emotionally comfortable in relationships
2. The capacity to feel empowered in relationships with others (via empathic engagement)
3. The skills required for self-awareness.
4. The skills required for affect-regulation and self-soothing
5. The personal sense of boundaries
6. The ability to preserve world beliefs and a sense of meaning
7. The ability to stay anchored and mindful during stress (as opposed to dissociating)
8. The ability to tolerate a full range of emotions without being overwhelmed or shutting down

We can be grateful that we have the tools necessary to combat the effects of trauma, stress and abuse in our daily lives. We practice self care increasing our self esteem and moving ever so steadily toward acceptance. In this way we continue to give ourselves the gift of hope.

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