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The therapists at Create Balance Psychotherapy and Counselling are passionate about helping clients recover from the mental, emotional and physical impacts of their traumatic experiences.

Trauma can be triggered by a wide range of events and is not always the result of life-threatening experiences. It can affect anyone, from any walk of life and it manifests differently for different people. The symptoms of trauma may occur immediately but for some people, memories of their traumatic experiences are hidden by the brain and the symptoms may not be recognisable as a response to trauma or may only appear after many years. The therapists at Create Balance believe that many mental health concerns, such as anxiety, depression and addiction, are symptoms of underlying trauma.

Effects of trauma

When confronted with a traumatic experience, our body automatically activates a survival stress response – fight, flight or freeze. For some people, this chemical response is temporary and subsides after some time. But for others, the stress response remains, well after the threat to life, safety or security has passed. This may mean that an individual lives their life in a constant state of fear and distress, whether they are conscious of it or not.

Physical Symptoms

  • Nausea
  • Upset stomach
  • Tremors
  • Feeling uncoordinated
  • Sweating
  • Chills
  • Diarrhoea
  • Dizziness
  • Chest pain
  • Rapid heart beat
  • Headaches
  • Sleep disturbances

Cognitive Symptoms

  • Slow thinking
  • Confusion
  • Disorientation
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Difficulty problem solving
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty with memory
  • Repeatedly reliving the traumatic event
  • Hyper-vigilance

Emotional Symptoms

  • Anxiety
  • Fear
  • Sadness
  • Depression
  • Anger
  • Guilt
  • Grief
  • Feeling lost
  • Feeling abandoned
  • Feeling isolated
  • Worried about others
  • Feeling irritable
  • Feeling numb, startled or shocked

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Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Trauma may be the result of a singular event, such as physical or sexual assault, a natural disaster such as bushfire or flood, a car accident or an illness or injury. Trauma may also stem from loss, such as the death or suicide of a loved one or a miscarriage.

PTSD is when a person continues to experience intense and disturbing thoughts and feelings long after the traumatic event has passed. They may regularly relive the events through flashbacks or nightmares. They may experience grief, sadness, anxiety or depression. They may avoid interactions or connections with other people and avoid situations that remind them of the traumatic experience. People with PTSD may also experience strong negative reactions to seemingly ordinary occurrences, such as loud noises or accidental touch.

Complex post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD)

Prolonged or ongoing trauma is referred to as complex trauma. This is may include experiences with domestic violence, family violence, bullying, childhood neglect, physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, financial abuse, war or torture. Complex trauma is also linked to intergenerational trauma, where trauma is passed down through multiple generations from survivors of traumatic events. In Australia, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and refugee communities are at particular risk of intergenerational trauma.

People with CPTSD may experience similar symptoms to people with PTSD. However, they may also have additional symptoms such as difficulty with emotion regulation, dissociation (suppressing or feeling detached from the traumatic event), negative self perception (including guilt and shame), difficulty forming and maintaining healthy relationships, developing a distorted perception of their abuser and loss of personal identity, beliefs and values.

Treating trauma at Create Balance

Treatment for trauma at Create Balance will vary depending on the individual, the traumatic event and whether the person is experiencing PTSD or CPTSD. The therapists at Create Balance use a range of therapeutic interventions, such as attachment based therapies, acceptance commitment therapy and mindfulness based therapies. They will usually use these therapies in conjunction with eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy. Many clients have reported feeling great relief from their trauma through the use of EMDR. An advantage of EMDR therapy for recovery from trauma is the fact that clients are not required to talk about their trauma in great detail, helping them to feel safe and secure.