Many clients who seek my help experience various degrees of stress from overwhelming past experiences that still impact on them even though the event has passed. These type of problems are often addressed as trauma, which may sound like a big word, but all it means is literally “wound“. As with physical wounds there can be small and big ones. While small wounds can be patched up easily, the big ones can become resistant to heal and keep hurting.
New research suggests that almost all diagnoses mask the role of trauma and adverse life events. In other words, most mental health problems stem from wounds in the past.
What might be the consequences of overwhelming stress?
When we experience difficult life events, our bodies and minds store these events as feelings and memories. Because our nervous system is wired to protect us, we often automatically respond to events that resemble the original incident. Here are some of the symptoms trauma and stress can cause in people. You may experience few or more of them together:
- audiovisual flashbacks
- feeling flashbacks
- repetitive and distressing images or sensations
- physical sensations, such as pain, sweating, feeling sick or trembling
- avoidance and emotional numbing
- feeling ‘on edge’
- angry outbursts
- sleeping problems (insomnia)
- difficulty concentrating
The NHS writes, many people who experience high levels of stress also have a number of other problems, including:
- other mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety or phobias
- self-harming or destructive behaviour, such as drug misuse or alcohol misuse
- other physical symptoms, such as headaches, dizziness, chest pains and stomach aches
- PTSD sometimes leads to work-related problems and the breakdown of relationships.
What might be the causes for high levels of stress?
Stress can occur after difficult and/or life-threatening events. It can stem from a single event, such as an accident, or a multitude of events experienced in relationships, such as most forms of abuse or neglect. Our ability to manage stress effectively can be overwhelmed through:
- Emotional Abuse / Psychological Maltreatment
- Physical Abuse / Assault
- Sexual Assault / Childhood Sexual Abuse
- Accidents or Medical Procedures
- Traumatic Separation / Loss
What is an effective treatment for stress?
There are several methods that are proven to be effective in the treatment of stress. I am trained in following therapies:
- Eye Movement Desensitisation & Reprocessing (known as EMDR) is highly effective for the treatment of PTSD and due to its evidence base it is recommended by National Institute for Health & Care Excellence (NICE) (see 1.6.18).
- Trauma informed psychotherapy draws from neuroscience and mindfulness and is particular important to help clients to learn new skills about regulating emotions.
- Gestalt psychotherapy has a growing evidence base which also confirms it’s efficacy with trauma and stress.