Living In Traumatic Times!
An Electronic Mental Health Newsletter from Joel I. Kimmel, Ph.D., P.A. & Associates
Volume 11, Number 7
Summer is half over. July has brought us very hot weather as well as a number of tragedies. Each of these shootings and stabbings increases our outrage and anger. We fear more violence and become frightened to travel. We feel shocked and powerless. Yet we need to keep it all in perspective. Yes, these are very difficult times and our sense of safety has become challenged.
But each of us needs to choose how we live our lives. And that may be a good thing. Perhaps we have become too comfortable in our lifestyles forgetting about those who aren’t and need the help of others. We also need to be responsible for our own safety. We need to make good choices and use good judgment. We cannot rely on others to take care of us. Rather, let’s use this time to evaluate our own lives and how we want to live and who we will support to be our leaders.
This month’s E-Letter focuses on Living In Traumatic Times. This information can be also downloaded as a handout from our E-Letters tab on our website. Our email of the month is about how consultants can make a change in organizations and our Ask the Doc question is about getting your children ready for school. We hope you find the enclosed information helpful. We also thank you for reading our E-Letters and for the many comments we have received.
Testings. If you are concerned about your child’s school placement for the next school year, this would be an excellent time to have them evaluated. Typical parent questions have ranged from should their child be retained to whether they are gifted to whether they have a disability that can qualify for accommodations at their school. Our practice does the different types of evaluations to help answer those questions and information about them can be found on our website. If you have more specific questions, please contact Dr. Kimmel.
Depression groups. Our ongoing weekly depression therapy groups have been quite successful. A men’s support group and a women’s support group are run by Dr. Jim Kaikobad and meets for one and one-half hours. The group is educational, supportive, and confidential and is limited to 8 people. If you are interested in attending, please contact Jillian at 954 755-2885.
Afterschool Tutoring. Tutoring for students in grades 1 through 8 is being offered after school and over the summer in our offices. Jill Kimmel, an experienced educator, will be helping students to understand and learn their academic concepts as well as provide assistance in doing homework. To find out more about our tutoring services as well as to schedule an appointment, please contact Jillian at 954 755-2885.
Handouts from previous E-Letters can be found on our website, www.KimmelPsychology.com. We invite you to read and download them if desired.
LIVING IN TRAUMATIC TIMES!
Our E-Letter this month focuses on understanding trauma, its impact, and what to do to recover from a traumatic event. A traumatic event refers to a situation that overwhelms a person’s ability to cope. It is often a high intensity, low frequency occurrence that is so shocking that it can leave a person disoriented, numb, and powerless. What is important to understand is how the person perceives the event, their subjective experience, that determines whether it is traumatic or not. Often first responders who have seen many traumas and are trained for it will not perceive the situation the same as you or I. In addition, traumas may vary in intensity based on a person’s previous experiencing of trauma, the duration of the trauma, and whether they were an observer or a victim of the trauma. This is one of the reasons why it is very difficult to treat soldiers returning from combat who may have experienced multiple traumatic situations.
In our society today with constant news coverage, it is very difficult to escape from traumatic events. In fact, because of the redundancy of news shows, we are constantly exposed to trauma with ever unfolding information that is supposed to inform us, but instead causes us to be anxious, angry, and worried. The crueler the event, the more shocking the trauma situation, the more intense is the news coverage and the angrier and powerless we feel. Traumas have always happened but in today’s world everyone is a reporter. Cameras in cell phones and the ability to tweet or message live even from inside the traumatic event gives everyone an opportunity to report the news. And it gets repeated over, and over, and over. We cannot escape it and instead we become more involved in it. We are left feeling powerless, numb, and angry.
Traumas have many causes including:
- Natural events such as hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, etc.
- Violence such as murder, rape, robbery, kidnapping
- Car and airplane crashes
- War and terroristic acts
- Emotional abandonment
- Domestic violence
- Physical abuse
- Child abuse
- Sexual abuse
- Emotional and degrading verbal abuse
- Significant loss
- Harassment and bullying
Research has shown that the higher the dose of trauma, the more damaging are its effects.
Those who have survived traumatic events are often depressed, anxious, and untrusting. They can develop eating disorders, dissociative disorders, and personality disorders including borderline personality and multiple personality disorders. They frequently turn to drug and alcohol use and can become medication dependent. Many become hypervigilant, remaining on-guard to protect themselves. Sleep patterns can become impaired with nightmares and night terrors. They can often suffer from intrusive thoughts and flashbacks or reliving the traumatic situation. Triggers or cues remind the person of the trauma and can cause emotions of anxiety and depression.
There are a number of treatments for people who have suffered trauma. EMDR, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Somatic Experiencing, and Biofeedback, in combination with medications, have been proven to be effective in reducing the effects of trauma. In the process of therapy, the resolution of trauma consists of educating about coping strategies, teaching emotional regulation, changing negative beliefs to positive ones, deconstructing negative and incorrect perceptions, connecting emotional feelings to physical sensations, systematically desensitizing to the trauma event, and self-esteem building.
Mental health professionals can be quite effective in helping to heal the effects of trauma. Professional help should be sought when a person:
- has continued difficulty in functioning at home, work, or school
- remains depressed or anxious
- uses and abuses alcohol and drugs
- has difficulty sleeping and experience nightmares or flashbacks
- isolates or withdraws and has difficulty relating with others
- feels emotionally numb and withdraws from previously enjoyable activities
Building resilience has been recognized as a core concept in overcoming the impact of trauma. Over time, most people resolve the effects of trauma and return to normal functioning. However, there are specific things one can do:
- Recognize and accept that you have been traumatized and give yourself time to recover
- Accept that in some ways, your reaction is normal for an “abnormal” situation
- Do not isolate or withdraw and express your feelings and thoughts to others
- Join a support group for others who have been in traumatic situations
- Do not repress your thoughts but gradually face them
- Do not make major decisions at this time
- Do not abuse drugs or alcohol as a way of coping
- Eat well and try to sleep well
- Exercise regularly but do not exhaust yourself
- Use relaxation techniques including deep breathing, meditation, yoga, listening to soft music, etc.
- Partake in activities that you previously found enjoyable and will give you something to look forward to
- With time and practicing the above suggestions, a person can successfully overcome the effects of a traumatic experience. We offer the following information on Living In Traumatic Times! (You can download the following from our E-Letter page on our website.)
LIVING IN TRAUMATIC TIMES!
After a traumatic experience, the human system of self-preservation seems to go onto permanent alert, as if the danger might return at any moment…Judith Lewis Herman, Trauma and Recovery
WHAT TO KNOW!
- Trauma has been identified as a psychologically upsetting or highly intense event of low frequency that results in negative emotional reactions that have lasting effects
- It is extreme stress that overwhelms a person’s coping ability so that they cannot integrate and adapt to the emotional experience
- Trauma is defined by the subjective experience of the viewer; one person may feel overwhelmed and terrified while others may be able to cope with it
- Traumas can include accidents, crimes, disasters, violent events, war, rape, abuse, imprisonment, deprivation, robberies, terrorism, harassment, abandonment, etc.
- Traumas caused by events such as shootings or explosions are unexpected, shocking and overwhelming to a person’s emotional system
- Traumatic events are most powerful when they are unexpected, are especially cruel, happen repeatedly, and when people are unprepared and feel powerless
- After a trauma, people are often disoriented, feel shocked, and are unable to think
- Common reactions to trauma include:
- Strong and intense feelings including anxiety, grief, vulnerability, and sadness
- Behavior changes including disrupted eating and sleeping patterns
- Physical changes such as rapid heartbeat, sweating, crying, weight gain or loss, headaches, chest pains, and vomiting
- Cognitive changes including vivid and repetitive memories of the event, flashbacks, indecisiveness, and difficulty concentrating
- Heightened sensitivity to loud noises, smells, and other environmental stimuli
- Disruptions in relationships including more conflict, withdrawal, and isolation
- Hypervigilance, panic attacks, and insomnia
- Survivors of repetitive trauma often have drug or alcohol abuse, personality disorders, depression, anxiety including PTSD, eating disorders, and dissociative disorders
- Triggers are defined as trauma reminders that can cause a person to mentally and physically re-experience the trauma
- Suicidality especially in combat veterans often occurs when the trauma symptoms do not diminish and the person may feel they are permanently damaged
- Primary treatments for trauma include Cognitive Behavior Therapy , EMDR, Somatic Experiencing, Biofeedback, Family Systems Therapy, Group Therapy and medication
WHAT TO D0!
- Seek professional help if you feel numb, continue to experience intense feelings or physical sensations, experience relationship conflict, are hypervigilant and get startled easily, have eating or sleeping problems, and feel overwhelming fear or sadness
- Recognize that you have been through an intense and overwhelming emotional experience and that you will have reactions to it; do not feel guilty
- Exercise and engage in other physical activities to focus on your body’s reactions
- Practice mindfulness, relaxation breathing, yoga, meditation, etc.
- Be with friends and family, participate in social activities, and do not isolate
- Join a support group, volunteer, and participate in activities to feel empowered
- Eat and sleep well, do not avoid your usual activities, and do not use drugs and alcohol
- Give yourself permission and time to recover
WE CAN HELP!
Call us at 954 755-2885 or email us at DrKimmel@KimmelPsychology.com
Joel I. Kimmel, Ph.D. P.A. and Associates
5571 N University Drive, Suite 101
Coral Springs FL 33067
Copyright © 2016; by Joel I. Kimmel, Ph.D.
As always, we would like to welcome new readers to our e-Letter. We hope that you find it informational and enjoyable. We invite you to share this e-Letter with others. If you have received this from a fellow reader, please send us your email address to include you on our list.
Ask The Doc
AK writes: My 12 year old son will be returning from camp in three weeks. He is home for a week and then school starts. What can I do to prepare him to return to school?
Dr. Joel Kimmel replies: Hopefully your son had a good and enjoyable experience at camp. The week between his return home and school is really a transition week for him to leave summer behind and prepare for the school year. It would be a good idea for him to have a day or two to see his friends and adjust to being home. After that, however, the rest of the week should be used to prepare him for school.
Specific things you can do include:
- Insure that he has his doctor and dentist visits
- Remind him that it is now time to focus on his upcoming school year
- Adjust his sleep schedule to mirror what it will be like when he starts school
- Go shopping with him for clothing, school supplies, and any other needed equipment
- Set up an exclusive space at home for him to do his homework
- Review what his schedule will be like after school including when he will do his homework and when he can socialize
- Discuss with him what your expectations are for the school year and listen to any disagreements he may have
- Discuss what support he can get if he does have any problems in school
These tips will be helpful in getting him off on the right foot. However, probably the most important thing you can do is to get excited about school. Talking to him about how great a school year it will be, will help to put him in a positive frame of mind. Don’t reinforce any negative comments he may make and remain upbeat. If you are excited about the school year, chances are so will he. Good luck.
Email of the Month
We would like to thank Robert P. for the following email:
The Spoon Lesson!
A lesson on how consultants can make a difference in an organization. Very Impressive!
Last week, we took some friends to a new restaurant, ‘Steve’s Place,’ and noticed that the waiter who took our order carried a spoon in his shirt pocket.
It seemed a little strange.
When the busboy brought our water and utensils, I observed that he also had a spoon in his shirt pocket.
Then I looked around and saw that all the staff had spoons in their pockets. When the waiter came back to serve our soup I inquired, ‘Why the spoon?’
‘Well,’ he explained, ‘the restaurant’s owner hired Andersen Consulting to revamp all of our processes.
After several months of analysis, they concluded that the spoon was the most frequently dropped utensil.
It represents a drop frequency of approximately 3 spoons per table per hour.
If our personnel are better prepared, we can reduce the number of trips back to the kitchen and save 15 man-hours per shift.’
As luck would have it, I dropped my spoon and he replaced it with the spare hanging in shirt of his. ‘I’ll get another spoon next time I go to the kitchen instead of making an extra trip to get it right now.’
The information provided in this electronic newsletter is not a substitute for professional treatment. It is the opinions of the writers and is provided solely for educational purposes. For mental health care, seek a qualified professional.
If you no longer wish to receive future E-Letter reminders, please send an email to DrKimmel@KimmelPsychology.com requesting to be removed from this list.
If you find this information interesting or helpful, please forward this E-Letter to your contacts and friends. Copyright © 2016 by Joel I. Kimmel, Ph.D. P.A. and Associates.