Scripps Ranch and Bankers Hill Therapist Sara Cole.
Imagine one minute you are watching your favorite show on TV, say The Office. You are happy, relaxed and enjoying this quiet downtime. But then something in a commercial reminds you of what happened to you and suddenly feel like you are back when that one terrible thing happened to you. It could be anything that triggered this response for you. You are suddenly anxious, overwhelmed and maybe scared or really sad. Now you are also frustrated because, "why can't I just get past this?". It's not like you should have to stop watching TV altogether. Maybe you think "why can't I just be normal and get over it already". Well, as you probably know, our brains work in mysterious and complicated ways.
Why does one event stick with you like this and some other thing happened and then you were over it? Why do two people who experience the same event, have totally different responses? Maybe one person ends up with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and the other one doesn't really even think about it much. This is a big big question and the answer could get quite long and complicated. However the basics are what is important here. So this is my attempt to give an answer that is understandable and brief. If you want more of the details, I will give some references of where to look.
How you respond to something that happens depends on your history, your understanding of the event, your coping skills, what you did after the potentially traumatic event, your past experiences, and more. You have a response that is individual and specific to you. So when that car crashed, did you believe you were going to die or did you think something else? Did you have any control over the situation? Had you been in a bad car crash before or known someone who had been? After the crash did you get a chance to talk about it? Had you experienced other potentially traumatizing events recently or in the past? These are a just a few of the ways in which your reaction can be influenced. So, you see how there are lots of factors involved in how your brain processes and files it away.
This analogy of filing memories away is a useful one in talking about trauma. This is because we believe that PTSD or its symptoms arise when your brain doesn't finish processing a particularly terrible event. Maybe because it doesn't know how to make sense of it. When your brain does fully process an event, you have a memory sort of like looking at a snapshot from that time. When you haven't finished processing an event, you might experience flashbacks, nightmares, anxiousness, anger, physical sensations of being back there at the event, or other uncomfortable or debilitating symptoms. The goal is to finish processing that memory so that it is a snapshot, like your other memories. So that it doesn't cause a physical and overwhelming reaction when you are reminded of what happened.
EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is one very effective treatment for trauma survivors. The process of EMDR seems to trigger the brain to finish processing the memory, so that it can be just that, a memory and not a totally overwhelming experience. To provide EMDR, a therapist must undergo specialized training and certification. It is a well studied model of treatment and can be successful in a relatively short amount of time for some people. EMDR can also be a successful treatment for phobias, anxiety and other issues as well.To see a person move from completely debilitated to relaxed and functional, is so amazing. As an EMDR provider, I have seen people regain their lives after receiving EMDR treatment. That is a pretty cool thing to be a part of.
For more information about the services Sara Cole provides or how she may be able to help you reach your goals and make positive changes, visit www.saracolemft.com or call (619) 316-3171. Sara provides mental health services in San Diego CA.
Sara Cole has been providing mental health services in San Diego for 15 years. Sara specializes in working with women and teen girls to overcome trauma and major life changes, including postpartum depression and anxiety. She is also passionate about providing treatment to those whose lives are affected by the addiction of a loved one.