Treating my History of Trauma

Trauma can be divided into two major categories: catastrophic events such as physical abuse or injury, sexual assault or a natural disaster or repetitive emotionally painful experiences such as child neglect, bullying, verbal abuse or the loss of a parent. Many think of trauma as the former however the latter can result in indefinite emotional scars leading to eating disorders and other mental health illness such as depression or anxiety. Addressing and treating mental health disorders associated with trauma necessitates a very intricate and detailed approach. Trauma informed care is a type of approach to counseling and addressing individuals who have experienced a traumatic event. Not all mental health treatment centers offer a trauma informed approach or trauma specific interventions. There is a difference between trauma specific interventions, which address the traumatic event, and trauma informed care, which provides mental health care to individuals while understanding they have been through traumatic events however the former does not specifically address the traumatic event itself.

What is trauma informed care?

Trauma informed care or trauma informed approach can be executed in any type of mental health setting and is distinct from trauma-specific interventions or treatments that are designed specifically to address the consequences of trauma. Trauma informed care works to address the specific mental health issues such as depression, eating disorders, bipolar disorder or anxiety while recognizing how trauma can affect each individual and their recovery from an addiction or mental health disorder. The trauma informed approach realizes the widespread impact of trauma and understands potential paths for recovery, recognizes the signs and symptoms of trauma, responds by fully integrating knowledge about trauma into policies and practices and seeks to actively resist re-traumatization in the future. Trauma informed care does not necessarily address the specific traumatic events at hand but work to provide safety, trust, peer support, collaboration, empowerment and equality to all victims of trauma.

EMDR and trauma

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is an eight-phase treatment technique that is used by therapists and includes brief, interrupted exposures to the traumatic event, eye movement tracking, and recall of feelings and emotions associated with the traumatic event. The therapist determines which traumatic memory to trigger first and asks the individual to hold this specific memory and associated symptoms in their mind and use their eyes to then track the therapist’s hand as it moves horizontally back and forth across the individual’s field of vision. This rapid eye movement approach allows internal associations to form and the individual can then process the memories and disturbing feelings onto an emotional level where empowerment and strength replaces the fear and anger. Instead of being fearful of the past event or it’s associated trigger the individual will feel a sense of strength for overcoming such a traumatic event. The opened emotional wound is transformed into a scar of strength. EMDR therapy includes focusing on the past traumatic experience, the present triggers and emotions associated with this past experience and the development of skills and thought processes needed to combat these negative feelings in the future and prevent these actions from occurring again.

Common disorders associated with trauma that can be treated with EMDR

Although EMDR was introduced to treat PTSD, there are many other mental health disorders that are associated with trauma in which EMDR can be helpful. It is important to note that EMDR can be effective in treating these disorders only if an element of trauma is present as an underlying trigger for these disorders. There are many other mental health and substance abuse disorders that can be treated with EMDR if there is an underlying trauma component associated in the history.

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Body dysmorphic disorder
  • Eating disorders such as bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa
  • Complicated grief
  • Dissociative disorders
  • Panic attacks
  • Phobias
  • Addiction