Anxiety & Trauma Recovery
Read Dr. Lucia’s blog THE WORRY MONSTER: GENERALIZED ANXIETY DISORDER.
Anxiety tends to be a common response to the stressors of daily life. Anxiety can serve a useful purpose at times, such as propelling you into action in the face of life events. However, anxiety can cross a line when it is no longer growth producing but instead immobilizing. Anxiety can impact appetite, sleep, mood, daily functioning, and life enjoyment. An estimated 31.1% of U.S. adults experience an anxiety disorder at some time in their lives.
HOW THERAPY WILL ASSIST YOU IN DECREASING YOUR ANXIETY
Therapy for general anxiety involves providing education on common anxiety symptoms and what tends to cause anxiety. You will learn the many ways that anxiety can impact your mental health and physical health. Anxiety has likely been part of your life for a long time. You have probably noticed that over time your anxiety has spread like an infection, in that it may feel out of your control and it is now interrupting more areas of your life than it did in the past. There is hope, because you can take control of your anxiety, instead of your anxiety controlling you!
In therapy, your treating provider will assess the duration, frequency, and severity of your anxiety symptoms. The recommended approach for treating general anxiety is using a Cognitive Behavioral Therapy approach. In addition to providing education about anxiety, therapy will also include learning techniques to challenge unhelpful and extreme thoughts, breathing retraining to decrease arousal, building healthy coping skills and problem solving strategies, and learning how to take care of your body so that your physical health is not impacted.
TRAUMATIC EXPERIENCE DEFINED
A traumatic experience may include, but is certainly not limited to, a traumatic car accident, natural disaster or mass violence (active shooter), sexual assault, domestic violence, military related trauma (combat or non-combat related), and more. You may have directly experienced or witnessed a traumatic event, or learned that a traumatic event occurred to a close friend or loved one. Common symptoms of trauma may include hyper-vigilance, feeling on-edge and irritable, anger, sadness, guilt or shame, feeling fearful and scared, helplessness, having nightmares or bizarre dreams, recurring thoughts or images of trauma, avoiding thoughts/places/events that serve as reminders of trauma, decreased intimacy with partner/friends, desire to isolate, lacking trust in others, not feeling safe in the world, and/or problems with focus and concentration.
HOW THERAPY WILL ASSIST YOU IN TRAUMA RECOVERY
Trauma focused treatment involves providing education on common trauma symptoms that you may experience post a traumatic event. You may think you are “crazy” or “weak” because of the trauma symptoms you experience; the reality is that you are experiencing a normal reaction in response to an abnormal/adverse event.
In therapy, your treating provider will assess your coping skills and make sure that before trauma discussion occurs, you have healthy ways to cope with traumatic memories (i.e., increasing support network or starting exercise routine). You will be assisted in replacing unhealthy forms of coping (i.e., increased alcohol use, smoking, emotional eating) with healthier and more adaptive forms of coping. You will be guided in approaching thoughts and feelings that you tend to avoid as related to your trauma. The more you decrease avoidance, the less intense and less frequent your symptoms will be. Sometimes just learning about common trauma symptoms, and skills to effectively address these symptoms, is enough for you to start experiencing immediate relief and move into recovery. PREVENTION IS KEY! The sooner you seek help after a traumatic event to learn about symptoms, build skills, and give yourself permission to share what you experienced, the better the outcome!
SPECIALIZED TRAUMA WORK
Sometimes trauma symptoms have been lingering for months, years, or decades. Your treating provider will assess the duration, frequency, and severity of your symptoms, and determine if it is warranted to implement Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT). CPT is an evidenced-based manualized treatment protocol for trauma. Clinical practice guidelines, which informs treating providers of treatment protocols that demonstrate the best evidence and treatment outcomes, dictate CPT to be effective in the treatment of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and/or common trauma symptoms following a traumatic event.
CPT involves 12 or more weekly sessions (60-90 minutes in duration). CPT focuses primarily on your thoughts and feelings that have changed since the trauma occurred, and assists you step-by-step in challenging and changing these upsetting and often extreme ways of thinking and feeling. For example, since the trauma occurred you may think the world is generally an unsafe place and that people in general cannot be trusted; this way of thinking may impact your relationships and ability to establish trust with others. You may feel guilt and anger because you believe the trauma could have been prevented if you would have done something differently. CPT will help you to examine your thoughts and feelings, learn to gain acceptance when needed, and/or learn when changing your viewpoint may be more helpful.