Healing Anxiety and Depression




A Practical Guide to Determine if One May be Affected by a Traumatic Event.
What can you do about it?

In the aftermath of September 11, 2001, the issues of trauma, traumatic stress and it's effect have come to the forefront in most every compassionate person.

The phenomenon of post traumatic stress reactions, while present throughout history, first gained a clear identity and prominence with our troops returning from the ravages of the military conflict in Viet Nam. Other wars created similar reactions. But with those, the effects of trauma (e.g., the common WW-1 & WW-2 metaphor of 'shell shock') were identified, but not so studied as was so in the aftermath of the Viet Nam conflict.

The effects of trauma on troops returning from the oftentimes gruesome events of jungle warfare in Viet Nam, received extensive study and research into how to treat this phenomenon. A phenomenon that created significant impairment in ones life-functioning. The Iraq and Afganistan conflicts provided more opportunities to study the phenomenon.

Everyone is affected by trauma in different ways. Some are more resilient than others.

What follows is a brief guide (not in any specific order) to determine if oneself, a friend or loved one has been negatively affected by a traumatic event.

1. Feeling 'numb,' emotionally...or just not with it. Diminished emotional responsiveness to others.

2. Feelings of 'depression,' e.g., frequently feeling 'blue,' a lack of interest and energy.

3. Feelings of powerlessness or inability to control or change what happens to oneself or with ones feelings about events and life circumstances.

4. Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep.

5. Early morning awakening.

6. Unusual physical fatigue, even after a good nights sleep.

7. Nightmares

8. Flashbacks or intrusion of memories of a recent traumatic event or past events.

9. A persistent, unwanted intrusion of thoughts recalling disturbing events.

10. Feeling repeatedly anxious over the safety and security of oneself and/or loved ones, even when there is no real cause to be concerned.

11. A sudden re-evaluation and/or change of one's spiritual practice or faith.

12. A persistent feeling of aloneness, as if no one who did not have similar experiences could understand one's feelings and thoughts.

13. Feelings of guilt that one survived or was uninjured in the tragic event, while others did not survive and/or were injured. Persistent feelings of what one 'could have' done but did not, during the traumatic event.

14. Concentration difficulties.

15. Unusual difficulty paying attention, or more easily distractible than what is usually the case.

16. A strong desire to not leave the safe confines of ones own home. A reluctance to travel or go outside.

17. Reluctance to discuss the traumatic event with friends and close associates.

18. A sudden lapse in judgment leading to unusual risk taking behavior, as if 'we might as well live now, for you never know what will happen.'

19. Increased consumption of alcohol, pharmaceuticals and/or illicit substances following the experience of a traumatic or tragic event.

20. Children can experience many of the above in response to trauma, in addition to presenting with listlessness in school and/or loss of interest in playing with friends, including constant desire to be within sight of parents and significant others. They may demand more than the usual reassurance from parents before bed time and/or before leaving the house for play or school.

21. In response to a traumatic event teenagers may engage in significant abuse of alcohol and illicit substances, as well as increased sexual activity. In both children and teens, school grades may exhibit a downturn.

Experiencing some of the above represents clues that a traumatic event has negatively impacted one's life-functioning. Many of these effects will be experienced, in varying degrees, by many people exposed to a traumatic event. One does not have to be directly involved in the traumatic event to feel the post traumatic effects.

There are many reports of people from around the world experiencing many of these above effects, subsequent to September 11th. This was considered to be one of the most significant traumatic events in history, for many reasons. Many of these folk, feeling some of the effects, had no contact with any of the victims or friends of victims, but merely read about it or watched the traumatic event on TV. In other massive tragedies, people who had no relationship with either those involved or the event itself, experienced some of the emotional effects.

For example, on September 11th, a close friend was traveling to college over the Triboro bridge. When the first tower was hit, officials halted the bridge traffic. She was stuck on the bridge. She got out of her car and watched the smoke as both towers burned and came down.

For the next month she would not cross that bridge, alone, as each time evoked the horror of the event. She missed a number of classes as a result. On a few occasions she actually went to the bridge ramp, but turned around and went home. She knew no one who was involved in the tragedy.

Treatment of the effects of trauma can be found with many professionals who specialize in trauma treatment. Effective treatments are short term and based on many of the strategic approaches mentioned in the links throughout this site. EMDR, TFT, and NLP are some of the techniques known and demonstrated to be effective. In choosing a professional to work with, ask if they have training in these modalities. Personally, if I were suffering from a traumatic stress reaction, I would not engage with a therapist who was not trained and practiced in at least some of these approaches.

Detailed strategies for conquering anxiety related and trauma related problems can be found in Healing Personal Psychology,
either hard cover or the digital e-Book edition.

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Jasenn Zaejian, Ph.D. 949-371-3997