Trauma is a heavy word – one that some may associate with war or other extreme circumstances. However, the truth is that trauma comes in many shapes and sizes, and eventually, it affects us all.
Adverse events such as physical assault or a car accident are examples of traumas that can impact us directly; others such as witnessing an accident second-hand or being repeatedly exposed to the details of a natural disaster or terrorist attack in the news impact us indirectly. For some, traumatic experiences are hard to forget. For others, the details of the event may be long forgotten. Still, the effects of trauma can reappear and cause anxiety, panic disorders, PTSD, or phobias. Whether direct, indirect, recent, or long past and largely forgotten, traumatic events can cause lingering emotional distress that can interfere with daily life. Most U.S. Americans have had at least one adverse experience as a child that can cause enough stress to damage brain development and impact the body, according an important study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Kaiser Permanente. The study found that toxic stress from adverse experiences can alter DNA functioning and be passed from one generation to the next. Also, individuals with four adverse childhood experiences have a substantial risk of adult onset arthritis, diabetes, cancer, suicide, alcoholism, heart disease, and other conditions. Adverse experiences from childhood can include:
- Physical abuse or neglect
- Emotional abuse or neglect
- Depression, addiction, or incarceration of a family member
- Witnessing the abuse of a parent or sibling
- Losing a parent to divorce or separation
- Discrimination based on race or gender
- Neighborhood violence
To help clients process emotional distress caused by adverse events or trauma experienced in childhood through adulthood, therapists may use an advanced therapy technique called Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). In EMDR, a therapist guides a client through memories while providing an external physical stimulus. For example, the therapist may instruct the client to follow an object with their eyes or may tap the client’s hands. EMDR can help clients create new associations and insights related to traumatic events, allowing them to heal and regain control. Numerous studies have shown that EMDR can be more rapid and effective than trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy and can alleviate negative emotions, disturbing images, and body-related complaints. Contact us today to learn more about EMDR.