Stress, trauma and PTSD often get confused and mixed together when in fact there are significant differences and specific therapy approaches which are required for successful therapy. Also key is working with a specialist trauma/PTSD therapist such as Caroline Williams.
Caroline has studied with Auckland PSI Institute gaining an overall evidence-based treatment approach for working with complex trauma and dissociation, that addresses the root causes of trauma and its neurobiology and so results are often long term recovery. Highly effective psychological and somatic (body regulation) techniques are woven into a carefully staged treatment approach, which systemically integrates significant relationships into the treatment process.
By working with Caroline you will heal early experiences of abandonment, neglect, trauma, and attachment loss, that otherwise tend to play out repetitively and cyclically throughout the lifespan in relationship struggles.
Stress vs Trauma
“Stress is the pattern of specific and nonspecific responses an organism makes to stimulus events that disturb its equilibrium and tax or exceed its ability to cope.”
In other words, stress is anything life brings our way that has the potential to upset our balance. Thus, traumatic experiences are always stressful, but stressors are not always traumatic.
Likewise, stress is not always harmful while trauma nearly always is. For example, some people perform better at school or at work given a bit of stress such as a rapidly approaching deadline. As respected surgeon named Stanley J. Sarnoff, M.D. (1963) taught throughout his stellar career: “If you had to define stress, it would not be far off if you said it was the process of living. The process of living is the process of having stress imposed on you and reacting to it” (p.100).
People are negatively affected by stress when they have not developed a stable set of strategies for coping with stressors. Many teachers of mindfulness meditation suggest that stress is an inevitable part of the human experience. However, when we learn to respond to stress instead of reacting to it, we are less likely to be plagued by problematic symptoms. For individuals with unhealed emotional traumas, what might seem like mild ordinary stressors of everyday life, may bring about an avalanche of emotions and functional impairment because their coping resources are already maxed out dealing with the invisible emotional wounds of trauma.
Trauma and PTSD
The International Society for Trauma Stress Studies defines trauma as a set of mild to severe reactions to, “shocking and emotionally overwhelming situations that may involve actual or threatened death, serious injury, or threat to physical integrity.” In the past the psychology community has thought of trauma as the experience of direct physical harm or violence. This definition now includes threats of violence and the witnessing of violence toward others. You can imagine how we all may experience traumatic stress throughout our lives. Trauma stressors can lead to PTSD and become significantly life impairing. After experiencing a traumatic event, there are factors that prevent us from developing PTSD such as our previous life experiences, a supportive social network, immediate mental health intervention, and using other coping strategies.
But if we all experience traumatic stress to some degree, then what is the difference between experiencing traumatic stress and living with PTSD?
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual [DSM V], the current criteria for PTSD includes the following:
- Exposure to actual or threatened death, serious injury or sexual violence.
- Symptoms following the event such as intrusive memories, recurring dreams, flashbacks or other bodily reactions to cues related to the event.
- Avoidance of things associated with the event (for example: similar or actual location, people or related feelings or thoughts).
- A generally negative change in thoughts or mood following the event(s).
- Changes in level of reactivity or heightened arousal beginning or worsening after the event(s) (for example: being startled very easily, feeling “on edge,” or having difficulty sleeping).
Caroline Williams brings over 15 years experience and specialist training in stress but more specifically trauma and PTSD. Her work has included major crime and homicide counselling . She works with individual and families impacted by
- sexual and physical/emotional abuse.
- narcissistic abuse