The Effect Of Long-Termed Trauma And The Development Of C-PTSD
The ability children have to protect themselves from a threat is limited by their mental maturity. Small children experience a variety of situations that may seem scary to them. A disapproving look from a parent can activate the child’s stress response system and leave the vulnerable child feeling hurt, betrayed, unloved, uncared for, or abandoned.
In families that utilize healthy parenting, this perceived threat can be readily addressed or quickly minimized by offering the upset child love, support or nurturing. This lets the child know that they are safe and loved while assisting them as the resolve their internal conflict. These acts work to deescalate the threat and teach the child healthy emotional regulation.
This is not the case in dysfunctional families. The child might be neglected. There might be physical, mental, emotional or sexual abuse in these households. Many times parental intervention into a traumatic or threatening situation is absent. This leaves the child alone having to toughen up or figure things out for themselves.
Trauma And The Stress Response System
Trauma affects everyone differently. Traumatic events push the nervous system outside its ability to regulate itself. Children who constantly experience emotional stress, such as a fear, judgment or rejection, their stress response system never gets turned off. Their developing bodies never get a chance to recover. This can leave the child perceiving danger around every corner. This can also cause the child’s automatic stress response to become dysregulated causing them to respond excessively to potentially dangerous situations. It may also cause them to get stuck in a particular stress response be it Fight, Flight, Freeze or Fawn, where they use the same response method whenever a threat is presented.
Trauma, Emotional Regulation And C-PTSD
The emotional dsyregulation an adult experiences may be subtle and lie just below the surface or it can be downright destructive. It might manifest as anxiety, depression, anger or rage, numbing, dissociation, negative beliefs, low self-worth, avoidance of attachment, people pleasing or codependency. Individuals who have dramatic, over the top, responses to a threat may also be suffering from complex post-traumatic stress disorder or c-PTSD.
People who suffer from c-PTSD can have difficulty controlling their emotions and emotional responses. Excessive life trauma interferes with the delicate balance found in the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. The sympathetic nervous system is tied to our fight or flight response. The parasympathetic nervous system is allied to our freeze or fawn responses. C-PTSD symptoms interferes with the hormonal equilibrium exhibited by these two systems and how we respond to stress.
Research Into Trauma And C-PTSD
Research suggests that memories of unresolved hurtful events can lie dormant in our body’s nervous system and in organs such as the amygdale. The amygdale is tied to emotional processing and regulation. It is a key structure in the formation of memories of fearful events. These studies indicate that ‘trauma’ occurs when our bodies are overwhelmed and unable to release the energy of the stress-filled event. We do this through things like screaming, crying or shaking. These activities allow the body to discharge the harmful energy generated. If it is not addressed and ultimately released, it remains in the tissues only to come to the surface when activated by a present day event.
Things that are no longer dangerous or a threat can trigger a traumatized individual. This can cause them to react to a seemingly minor stressor. What stresses them might not be obvious to most people it but can cause the traumatized person to overreact to what some may consider no apparent reason. The smallest reminder of a harrowing event, a color, a smell, a sound or even a feeling can set a person with c-PTSD off. A war veteran who hears a car backfire and automatically ducks for cover is the classic example of this. You do not need to be a veteran to have a dysregulated stress response.
Emotional Triggers And Unhealed Trauma
When a trigger is encountered, it causes the person to have the same intense feeling they experienced during the original trauma. When this is happening the person is having what is called an ‘emotional flashback’. The person unconsciously and many times reactively feels threatened and unsafe. This can cause them to react like a vulnerable child who was scared, hurt, betrayed, unloved, uncared for or abandoned.
A trigger might leave them feeling empty or hopeless, as if they are damaged goods or worthless. They may feel hostile or distrustful to others, which may cause them to avoid friendships or deep relationships. They may feel like nobody likes them, are completely different from other people or as if no one understands them. The flashback may also trigger dissociative symptoms.
Healing Emotional Triggers And Trauma
Many times individuals who suffer from emotional flashbacks do not recognize when they are reacting to a present day situation they are, in actuality, responding to a trauma they suffered years before. If paid attention to, the traumatized individual may begin to notice the same, recurring response pattern to specific stressors. This awareness is one way of understanding what is actually going on inside. It can open the door to find real and profound healing.
The Dysfunctional Dance Of The Empath And Narcissist may also provide you with some additional insights into the role of trauma in your life and ways to heal it.
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About Dr. Rita Louise
A gifted and talented clairvoyant medical intuitive, Dr. Rita Louise helps people identify the root causes of their concerns. She is a naturopathic physician and the founder of the Institute Of Applied Energetics that trains students in the art of medical intuition, intuitive counseling, and energy medicine. She has authored six books and produced several feature-length and short films. Dr. Louise has appeared on radio, television and in movies. She lectures on health and healing, ghosts, intuition, ancient mysteries and the paranormal. Her books and articles have worldwide circulation.