For women suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, finding help in a women’s trauma recovery program is nothing less than an opportunity to begin a new life.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a debilitating condition that causes those it affects to live in perpetual fear of re-experiencing past traumatic events. Traumatic experiences can take an infinite number of forms, but tend to involve either a physical violation or a violation of an individual’s understanding of the world. Many who suffer from PTSD are survivors of physical or sexual abuse, but there are also many individuals whose PTSD results from verbal or emotional abuse (including neglect). PTSD can also be caused by involvement in natural disasters or other situations of mass chaos, as well as witnessing acts of violence committed against another person.
Though there are certain types of experiences that tend to result in post-traumatic stress disorder, trauma is an individual plight. This means that one person may develop PTSD after enduring the same situation as another who is able to continue life normally. By the same token, there is no guarantee that a certain experience will result in PTSD. Regardless of the specific traumatic events that cause PTSD, those who suffer from the condition find their lives greatly encumbered by the constant threat of reliving their most horrific experiences.
Though PTSD affects both genders, the majority of the population that suffers from PTSD is female. For these women, treatment in a women’s trauma recovery program is essential to finding happiness and serenity. In order to understand why treatment is so crucial, it is necessary to first understand the specific ways that PTSD manifests in women’s lives.
As previously discussed, the primary symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder is the continuous re-experiencing of traumatic events. This phenomenon, commonly known as a “flashback,” can be triggered by any sensory input that brings to mind the circumstance in which the original traumatic experience took place. Sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and physical sensations can all trigger a flashback. Many times, the individual will be unsure of what triggered a flashback. This is because sensory memories tend to be stored deep in the subconscious, and are not necessarily available to us at will. They arise when they are called forward by familiar situations, as in the case of a flashback to past trauma.
It is very common for women with PTSD to experience recurring nightmares about past traumatic experiences, which makes sleep a threatening prospect, often resulting in insomnia. Because re-experiencing trauma is such an emotionally exhausting feat, the brain of a trauma victim sometimes learns to shut itself off entirely from stimuli that might cause flashbacks. The mind does this as a means of self-preservation, but the result puts the individual in a constantly dissociative state. Trauma victims who tend to dissociate may appear “zoned out” or disconnected. Though it may seem that this numbed out state is less harmful than the alternative (i.e. continuous emotional turmoil), dissociation is also a life-altering barrier that can only be broken down in a women’s trauma recovery program.
PTSD is a complex affliction that affects a woman on many levels. For those whose trauma involved a physical violation, PTSD tends to have significant physical manifestations. Even when trauma did not involve direct physical assault, PTSD can cause fear of physical closeness or intimacy, as these situations by nature make people vulnerable. In all cases of PTSD there are profound psychological effects – some which the trauma victim may be aware of, and others that dwell far beneath the surface of consciousness. Because PTSD causes disturbances in so many areas of life, an effective women’s trauma recovery program takes a multilateral approach to treatment.
One of the many aspects of an effective women’s trauma recovery program is working to identify potential triggers, gradually cultivating strategies to avoid them when possible and cope with them when they must be faced. The gradual nature of this process is very significant. Because trauma is essentially a violation, trauma treatment must happen on the patient’s own terms. If patients are forced into exploration of traumatic experiences before they feel comfortable treatment will not only be unproductive, but can constitute further trauma.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy is the generally accepted standard treatment for PTSD, and is therefore a typical part of any women’s trauma recovery program. The cognitive-behavioral approach to PTSD treatment essentially functions by working with each patient individually to assess common triggers, thoughts and feelings during and after a flashback, and the specifics of other symptoms that may be troubling her. After working one-on-one with each patient, allowing her to become more aware of the form her PTSD takes, cognitive-behavioral therapists develop a personalized plan for intervening and changing the problematic patterns. This plan will generally include practicing coping mechanisms such as relaxation and distraction techniques.
Hypnotherapy, experiential therapy, equine therapy and art therapy are less direct treatment techniques, but can be extremely helpful for women who are not yet ready to face their trauma head-on. A comprehensive women’s trauma recovery program will make use of these alternative therapies with the knowledge that they can act as catalysts for self-discovery and healing.
Another alternative therapeutic technique that is used in PTSD treatment is Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, commonly known as EMDR. This technique, like cognitive-behavioral therapy, seeks to open up patterns of thought and restructure them. EMDR utilizes a highly structured protocol to transform memories of traumatic experiences by creating new connections within the brain between these memories and fresh positive information. If therapy is successful, the brain is fundamentally altered so that memories of trauma are no longer distressing and can be processed mentally without panic.
PTSD is a debilitating condition to live with. Unfairly, it results from situations for which the victim has no culpability. Still, no one but the individual who suffers from PTSD can absorb the responsibility of recovering. With the help of a women’s trauma recovery program, a new life is available to any woman who chooses to leave PTSD behind her.