What is Psychological Trauma really?

June 27, 2014 0 Comments

What is Psychological Trauma really?

(PTSD, PTS, Battle Fatigue, Shell Shock etc)

Psychological Trauma stems from A Natural Physiological Response   (NOT DUE TO ILLNESS/WEAKNESS/WRONG ACTION)

Whenever a human being experiences threat in the environment, a series of natural physiological changes take place. These changes are natural, adaptive, and life sustaining however this shift in operating systems compromises other parts of the brain and alters the way information gets encoded or stored in the memory. All senses are receiving information during the event but these smells, sights, sounds, etc. are left partially unprocessed and not completely encoded in the memory but instead stored in a fragmented fashion or in pieces.  Due to this incomplete processing or improper storage of that sensory information, while “taking care of business” a individual may experience intrusive elements of the traumatic scene when they encounter sensory stimuli reminiscent of those experienced during the traumatic or dangerous event.  

“Psychological Trauma CAUSES mental health problems/symptoms but does NOT RESULT FROM a mental health problem”
— Dr Elk


The Problem

Due to the duration and nature of the sustained operations in various parts of the world since 9/11, the opportunities to experience traumatic events have significantly increased. Hence it is reported that approximately 25% of service members are diagnosed with PTSD.

 Unfortunately, this is likely a gross underestimate given the reluctance to report issues due to the stigma of being “mentally ill” weak, broken, or failing in some way instead of the reality that one is simply experiencing mental health symptoms resulting from a natural physiological response to threat.

Adding to the reluctance to seek treatment is the nature of the evidenced based treatments currently offered. These psychotherapies entail a protocol of 12-14 sessions. Current treatments also require disclosure of the trauma verbally and/or in writing, in detail, repeatedly and purposeful exposure to triggers which can be overwhelming and result in treatment not being initiated or not completed due to intolerance, exasperation of symptoms or simply negative value in the cost/benefit ratio of continuing. Medication, which can be highly effective in managing symptoms is the other option.  However, the goal of all of the existing therapies is to manage symptoms, not correct the storage of the memory to eliminate triggering symptoms.

“I see and treat healthy people. People who know something is affecting their performance and want to get it out of their way.”
— Dr Elk



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