Understanding Trauma

Trauma comes in all shapes and sizes – and it affects more than just your mind.

What is trauma?

When we think of “trauma,” most people think about combat veterans, PTSD, and near-death experiences. We think about flashbacks and bad memories.

However, this misses the full picture. Trauma is actually (and unfortunately) quite common.

Most adults in the United States will have experienced some form of trauma in their lifetime, such as:

  • Witnessing or experiencing an act of violence
  • Abuse (physical, sexual, emotional)
  • Rape and other forms of sexual assault
  • Sudden death or loss of a loved one
  • Social rejection or ostracism
  • Domestic violence
  • Acts of hate (racism, sexism, etc.)
  • Facing a serious medical issue
  • Being the victim of a crime

However, only ten percent of people will develop symptoms of post-traumatic stress.

If you or a loved one have experienced a traumatic life event and are dealing with symptoms of posttraumatic stress, you are NOT alone.

Reaching out for help can be difficult, but I want to make it easy – which is why I offer a free initial consultation to help you get to know me better and have that sense of safety.

Contact me today and, together, we can start to make things normal again. Read on to learn more about trauma and how it affects the whole person.

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What causes post-traumatic stress?

Trauma affects much more than just the mind.

At the highest level of clinical severity, posttraumatic stress is called Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. However, not all trauma survivors will develop the full criteria for a diagnosis of PTSD, and sometimes their experience will appear more similar to anxiety (frequent worry, feeling tense or on edge, etc.) or depression (loss of motivation, poor mood, isolation, etc.).

This overlap of symptoms is explained by the neurobiological bases that drive most emotional and psychological difficulties. Renowned author of The Body Keeps the Score, Dr. Bessel van der Kolk described this quite well (emphasis added):

“Long after a traumatic experience is over, it may be reactivated at the slightest hint of danger and mobilize disturbed brain circuits and secrete massive amounts of stress hormones. This precipitates unpleasant emotions, intense physical sensations, and impulsive and aggressive actions.

These posttraumatic reactions feel incomprehensible and overwhelming. Feeling out of control, survivors of trauma often begin to fear that they are damaged to the core and beyond redemption.”

No matter how hard I try, I just can’t stop thinking about it. The memory consumes me.

When we survive trauma…

our mind and body learn this stress reaction in the same way other experiences are committed to memory. For example, when you think about “the holiday season,” you might have some associated memories – people, food, decor, and so forth.

You might suddenly have cravings for particular holiday foods, and those craving might even make your mouth water. This is an example of a positive memory that activates and connects the mind and body. Trauma on the other hand, relates to painful experiences in your past which you may or may not even have conscious memory of.

Particular triggers associated with that trauma can activate and connect your body and mind in similar, but far more unpleasant and sometimes destructive ways.

The body is designed to keep you alive, which means potential threats to safety are programmed at the cellular and neurological level to help keep you out of harm’s way. This is why some survivors of trauma will say they “never” feel safe, even when they are alone.

To make matters worse, those memories do not go away whether you can consciously recall them or not. Some people experience trauma responses that are confusing and confounding, because their psyche has deemed the memory too painful and therefore repressed it.

Left untreated, symptoms of posttraumatic stress can impact your relationships, your career, and even your health (Lehrner & Yehuda, 2018). Do not wait and hope for things to get better on their own – let me help. Contact me today to begin your journey towards wellness.

I don’t want to think about it – it’s too painful.

How can I deal with trauma?

Although some medications have been found to be helpful for reducing some of the stress of a traumatic event, these simply act as a temporary bandage that ultimately cannot address the underlying cause. This is why psychotherapy, or counseling, is the gold-standard treatment for post-traumatic stress.

Therapists are professionally trained to help people just like you rebuild trust (with others and yourself), cope effectively with stressors, and find freedom from traumatic memories. Sometimes change can be difficult, which is why having a counselor working alongside you is so important. Facing and overcoming trauma can also allow you to rediscover yourself, find new purpose, and move beyond experiences of brokenness.

You do not have to do this alone. I provide psychotherapy for trauma survivors just like you from all over the San Francisco and Berkeley area, in person as well as online, because I KNOW that things can get better. You deserve a life filled with happiness and prosperity, and I want to help make that happen.

How can I be traumatized by something when I don’t even remember the details of what happened?

How can Andrea help?

As a Relational Depth Psychotherapist, I provide a unique combination of relational warmth, interpersonal connection, and deep psychological insight for my clients.

My approach to treatment for trauma and PTSD is compassionate, empowering, and specifically designed with your goals at the forefront. I have helped numerous people work through their trauma – and I am confident that I can help you too!

My therapy will help you learn to:

  • Treat trauma symptoms
  • Process and resolve traumatic memories
  • Address fallout resulting from your trauma and get your life back on track
  • Sleep more effectively
  • Enhance feelings of self-worth
  • Feel motivated and inspired
  • Discover new insights about yourself
  • Find freedom and a new sense of purpose

To accomplish those goals, we will:

  • Establish a safe, mutually respectful relationship
  • Employ gentle curiosity to help you open up in ways you have not before
  • Develop self-compassion and improve your understanding of yourself
  • Explore your trauma history and its impacts on you, both historic and current
  • Address physical/somatic experiences associated with trauma
  • Utilize specialized, tactical therapeutic strategies to address and heal your trauma

I firmly believe that together, we can work through your struggles. Do not let trauma continue to get in the way of a happy and healthy existence. Contact me today and learn how I can help make things better.

Let’s Work Together

My hope is that you feel encouraged and supported to find the help you need! If you or a loved one struggle with trauma, anxiety, or other mental health issues, contact me today. Together, we can begin the journey of healing, self-awareness, and long-term wellness.

Let’s connect! I would love to hear from you and learn about you and your story.

It’s scary – but I’m ready to face this head-on and move past this traumatic experience.