Categories
Trauma

Childhood Trauma and Addiction

Post-traumatic stress disorder and substance abuse are highly correlated. That’s true whether we’re talking about the acute traumas sustained by war veterans or whether we mean the chronic psychological wounds of those surviving childhood abuse and neglect. 

No one intends to be an addict. Many substances are addictive to humans just because of what’s in the chemistry, yes. But the reason addiction can get such a foothold within us in the first place is because it offers an answer to a deep, painful need. 

Even though addiction is the opposite of healing, we can still recognize that what a person is trying to do when they use a substance is find a way to survive a level of burden that would otherwise fragment them into oblivion. 

Substances change our bodily states, our emotions, and our thoughts. They also reduce the volume on pain, psychological or physical. People with trauma need extra help with all of those things. 

That’s because those with developmental trauma, which is another way of saying childhood trauma, are impaired in their ability to manage their inner experiences and their outer behaviors. 

As the name implies, developmental trauma interrupts our development, and we don’t get to grow up to the point of being a fully functional adult with the ability to make executive decisions and self-soothe our feelings.

Traumatized people do not complete their growing; rather parts of us get split off and left in the past at various stations where overwhelming events were too big to be resolved. 

This splitting off is also a way of understanding that the traumatized person does not feel like a whole person. Rather, trauma turns us into a jumble of shadows, parts and portions of us who stay in back in our traumatizing childhoods even though we are physically adults now. 

This is part of why it’s so important to refrain from judging addiction. Addiction is devastating and horrible to the addict and it wrecks lives, there is no debating that. But as with all problematic phenomena, it’s good to understand why and how this negative thing comes into being. 

Addiction is rampant in our world because it is a safety seeking behavior. 

Trauma is the opposite of feeling safe, in fact it’s one way to describe exactly what your body is doing when you have a stress response to a situation: the body is telling you, and preparing you physiologically, to address something that is a threat to your life. 

For children, it’s important to remember, disrupted attachment bonds are a threat to life, so the stress response can kick in over situations that wouldn’t be life threatening to a fully grown adult, such as being left alone too long or making a caregiver angry. 

When the biological, physiological response created by an event gets trapped in the body, and is not given the chance to resolve, it becomes frozen in the body and a part of the self splits off to protect and defend against conscious awareness of those thoughts and feelings. 

Repeated stress also creates a lifelong habit of overriding awareness of one’s own inner states. If you’re a child, trapped for the next 10 years in a household of daily threats to your wellbeing, you will develop the skill of not taking the action that the body wants you to do (run away or fight back). Instead, you will learn to go still and numb. 

If it’s not safe enough to run away (because we’d die without adult protection and care) and to fight back would make our situation worse (we’d be further punished or abused), we are left with freezing as our only option for surviving overwhelming events.  Doing this over and over in childhood turns us into frozen adults with no idea how to feel what we need to feel, make good decisions, or move on from our troubles. 

Most damagingly, we never learn to use our own power and agency, but rather remain in a feeling of perennial helplessness, the essence of the freeze response. 

Being in chronic states of fear, anger, and helplessness all create a kind of inner pain which sets a person up to fall into the trap of addiction. So let’s try to give ourselves and each other a break, where possible, and see that even though addiction is a huge problem, it exists in our lives because of an even bigger problem, the trauma epidemic. 

The good news in all of this: addiction is treatable, and so is PTSD. At Villa Kali Ma, we will treat both conditions hand-in-hand. Please do come if you need help,  you are not alone. 

 

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Trauma

Childhood Trauma in Adults

What happens to traumatized children when they grow up into adults? 

Mental and physical health problems, addiction, and relationship troubles are typical.

But one key impact stands out above the rest: traumatized people tend to re-enact their childhood experiences. They can get trapped in unconsciously re-creating their pasts.  

Traumatized people need, developmentally speaking, to re-experience the bad feelings and sensations they experienced repeatedly in childhood so that they can resolve those topics. 

In essence, we cannot fully grow up until we master the art of safety, something people traumatized in childhood didn’t get a chance to do. 

Mastering the art of safety involves several developing several key abilities: the ability to run away from a danger too big to fight, the ability to fight (to defend and protect oneself when the danger is fightable), and the ability to return to feeling safe and good in the body once the danger is over. 

Traumatization comes from repeated, unresolved stress due to exposure to danger without ever getting to learn how to run away, fight, and return to feeling good. 

The stress response is automatic, unconscious and biological (it’s not a choice, nor is it governed by willpower). It’s what happens when the body prepares you to take action to overcome a threat. Your body prepares you by flooding you with the neurotransmitters and hormones that your body uses to exert physical energy. 

An overwhelming threat to your life can be a direct attack, like physical abuse by a caregiver, but it can also be a lack of what is needed to survive (things like love and attention, which are necessary for human development). 

Whenever something occurs in life which represents a threat to your survival, the body responds with this kind of stress, as the body is mobilizing you to take action. 

The stress response isn’t a problem, in and of itself. It is healthy to respond with stress when there is something that needs to be dealt with. The problem is when that mobilization energy doesn’t ever turn into a successful action, and therefore never gets spent and fully metabolized. 

Key is learning agency: that we ourselves have the power to create safety. When we learn that we can run away from danger, or that we can fight it off, and that we can take positive action to experience safety, we have learned an important life skill. 

When you cannot run away and you cannot fight, because circumstances are such that neither of those are a good option for you (which is how it is in childhood, most of the time), then you are likely to go with the freeze response, which is a bit like playing dead until a time in the future when the event is over or goes away on its own.

If we are repeatedly exposed to danger, even just the danger of broken attachment, which is a survival threat for children, and we do not get to have the experience of our own role in successful resolution of danger, we enter adulthood with a backlog of fear, anger, and helplessness trapped in the body. 

If this is us, life will give us chances as adults to do what we couldn’t do then – to have a successful experience of running away to safety, of fighting off attackers, of realizing that we have power to protect our own life. We all need to master the human skill of taking positive, life-preserving action. 

So you see, our psyches will continue to generate situations for ourselves in which we have the chance to get scared, but get ourselves to safety; get angry, but successfully fight off the threat. 

If this is you, dear reader: know you are not alone with this, and that it is doable to do now what wasn’t possible then. We don’t have to live our lives repeating the bad things that happened to us. We are allowed to move onward and upward into the lives we’d rather have. 

It begins with getting help. Of all the things in this world that are hard to do alone, recovering from trauma is perhaps the hardest. So if it’s available to you now to surround yourself with some kind and capable humans from whom you can learn the skill of safety, I so hope you will give yourself that gift. 

From one survivor to another: how life feels when you are confident you can create safety for yourself versus being in a state of permanent fear, dread and helplessness is the difference between a life worth living and a nightmare. Although most traumatized people don’t know it, safety feels good – better than any drug.   

Categories
Trauma

How to Heal from Childhood Trauma

If you’re like me, you’re a little scared of your feelings. Scared because once a bad feeling gets ahold of you, you’re not fully sure how to get that feeling out of you. 

Can you relate to this? If so, it might be because of your childhood trauma. 

Oh no, not childhood trauma, you think. Do I have to go into my past again

Well…Yes! But maybe not in the same old way. Let me explain. 

What happens in childhood has long-lasting effects on us, leading to a pile-up of negative emotion that haunts us and affects our behavior now. 

These emotions are variations of fear and anger. Fear and anger are two sides of the same coin, and that fear-anger coin is how mammal biology responds to overwhelming threats. 

Nature wired us to respond to the situations we were in as children with fear-anger. We are calibrated to respond to bad situations with bad feelings. 

Trauma is what we call it when the fear-anger doesn’t have a way to leave our system as nature intended, but instead gets stuck in us and becomes a chronic pattern. 

There’s good news in that sentence: trauma isn’t the events themselves, it’s what’s in us, in our bodies. 

Why is that good? Because we can let the trauma, the activation, out of us, if we can find the door. Whereas we can’t change external events that happened to us long ago, we can change our own insides, now. 

The problem we face now is not so much the feelings themselves – which are normal and natural, just pent up within us – but in the fact that we never learned how to let these feelings subside.

So, yes, we need to revisit the past, specifically the felt-sense experience that our bodies had back then. But the revisiting of these feelings is only temporary, as a part of a process of letting these sensations move out of us for good. 

Here are the steps for healing your childhood trauma:

Here is how to heal from childhood trauma step-by-step:

How to Heal from Childhood Trauma

Step 1: 

Master the practice of generating feelings and sensations of safety in your body. The trauma response, also known as stress, is the opposite of safety. So look for the opposite of stress. 

You can do this by activating the parasympathetic branch of your nervous system. Activities like breathwork, yoga, singing and chanting, gardening, cooking, time in nature, creative expression, hugs, and pets all help activate the parasympathetic system. 

You might be happy to hear that the parasympathetic branch is what’s dominant in your body when you’re feeling good! So essentially, this step is: learn how to feel good and to sustain that state as best you can. 

Here is an assignment you can do to help in taking this step: Write out one long description (1 page or more) of a time you can remember feeling really relaxed, safe, and good in your body and being. Read what you wrote and really focus on the feelings you have as you read. This is the type of experience you’re looking for (the clue is how you feel, not so much the details of the circumstances themselves). 

Do this assignment again and again, until you have 12 pages of 12 different times when you felt safe and wonderful. 

Step 2: 

While maintaining the softest, safest state you can in general in your life, look out for those old trauma feelings when they show up, which they will on their own (a clue is: they feel bad to the body). 

When the events come back to you in the form of bad feelings, do your best to let them just be there. Observe them, knowing they are temporary, and that they will exit if you manage to stay relaxed. Open the door for them, and they will go. Your job is mainly to notice them and not react to them.

Step 3:

Witness your trauma feelings as they exit your system. Allow the body to do whatever it wants to naturally do (within the bounds of safety) as these energies exit. Typical are trembling, shaking, moving, wanting to do something vigorous like a brisk walk or suddenly needing to run or do something energetic. Do pretend karate moves or real karate. Get physical. The trauma leaves through spontaneous physical release.

This is a simple explanation of a complex topic. In truth, it is enormously helpful to work with a trauma-informed healer of some kind. But I want you to know that trauma healing is not rocket science. It’s actually biology 101. Make it safe for your body, and your body will do it for you. 

Categories
Trauma

12 Signs of PTSD in Women

There are several common signs of PTSD in women. However, trauma impacts each woman differently and requires a personalized approach to trauma therapy

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, is a mental health disorder that develops after someone experiences a traumatic, albeit terrifying, event either directly or indirectly. For example, a few of the events that can have a long-lasting impact on mental health include the following:

  • Sexual or physical assault
  • Child sexual or physical abuse
  • Observing violence or death
  • Combat or military experiences

In this article, you will discover several of the most common signs of PTSD in women. 

Signs of PTSD in Women

How someone experiences, reacts and handles the entire traumatic event will be different for each person. Two people may undergo similar experiences, and yet only one of them shows signs of PTSD. But, while the experience itself can vary from woman to woman, the resulting signs and symptoms of PTSD can be very similar.  

Here are several of the most common signs of PTSD in women.

1. Intrusive and Distressing Thoughts

Having thoughts about the traumatic event can pop up seemingly out of nowhere. This is one of the most frequently reported signs of PTSD. A woman may be moving freely through her day when all of a sudden memories about the event appear. This can lead to feelings of panic, unease, anxiety, discomfort, etc. They could come when in a similar situation – such as being at the same party with someone who caused your pain – or they may just appear out of nowhere. 

2. Nightmares

Getting a good night’s sleep is essential for overall health and wellbeing. But this can be hard for those who suffer from nightmares thanks to PTSD. These awful dreams can be very real and lead to physical pain and feelings that can disrupt sleep – and even impact daily life. 

3. Avoidance

Avoidance of particular places, events, people, situations can be a huge sign of PTSD. Those who are traumatized by a car accident, for example, may find it hard to get back in a car. Or, they may avoid a specific part of driving, such as certain roads or making left turns. Those who were sexually abused as a child or assaulted as an adult may find it hard to be intimate with a partner. This avoidance behavior can be debilitating. 

4. Negative Thoughts

Whether it is about oneself or the world around them, women who have PTSD will often possess a negative, pessimistic view of life. This leads to feelings of hopelessness and doom. They may have an ailing self-image and confidence, requiring therapy and tools to overcome it. Leaving these negative thoughts alone may fester and grow into potentially dangerous thoughts. 

5. Inability to Focus

When your mind just went through something that it perceives as horrific, returning to normal, everyday life seems impossible. It is not uncommon for there to be difficulty focusing on mundane tasks when the mind is elsewhere. As a result, those with untreated PTSD may struggle to achieve success in school or in the workplace. 

6. Missing Memories

Certain bits of memory loss are expected when traumatic events happen. This is because the brain’s ability to function properly is impacted by its desire to protect itself from what just happened. It is our own natural defense mechanism. Without any recollection of what happened, there are no unpleasant or distressing reactions – or intrusive thoughts. 

7. Always on High-Alert

Hypervigilance is another prevalent sign or symptom of PTSD. Someone who has been through a harrowing experience always wants to be prepared for the next thing. They never want to leave themselves vulnerable to acts of violence, terror, abuse, etc. Therefore they stay active and maintain extreme vigilance – perhaps even overreacting – in an attempt to keep the trauma from happening again.

8. Intense Flashbacks

Intrusive thoughts can be bad enough, but flashbacks can take things to a whole new level. These flashbacks can happen out of nowhere or can be triggered due to encountering certain things/people/smells/sounds. These sensations are vivid and feel very real, and the response they elicit is very visceral, too. Flashbacks lead to panic and may even warrant an aggressive, physical response. 

9. Easily Startled

Many people living with PTSD are easily started, whether by movements or by sounds. And their response is usually wildly exaggerated. Think of the combat vets who hear fireworks. PTSD often triggers a very real flashback, or it can cause an exaggerated startle.

10. Self-Isolating

After trauma, victims dealing with PTSD often find it hard to relate to others. They may change their personalities and behaviors, and they may even begin to feel like an outsider. Isolating themselves during this time is not a healthy way to process the trauma. Speaking with a therapist is highly recommended. 

11. Acting Carelessly

After going through something that has caused PTSD, some women find that they care less. They may have thought they did everything right and still ended up hurt, so why bother? Some engage in compulsive behaviors for the adrenaline or thrill — it allows them to feel. Or, what happens quite often, is women will turn to substance abuse to reduce the pain and suffering caused by the trauma. 

12. Assigning Blame

It often goes back to those negative thoughts, but blaming oneself is a common – and dangerous – sign or symptom of PTSD. It is not uncommon for the victim of a traumatic situation to blame themselves for it happening in the first place. This is especially the case when it involves losing a loved one. Or, less commonly, blaming others may occur. Assigning blame is something to look out for. 

If you or someone you love is exhibiting signs of PTSD, whether you recognize the trauma or not, it is important to seek professional guidance and treatment. When trauma leads to addiction, it requires the help of both a mental health therapist and an addiction specialist. Finding a way to do this in a whole-body, holistic healing method can prove lifelong success.

Categories
Trauma

Trauma and Addiction: An Unfortunate Connection

Addiction happens for many different reasons. But, all too often, there is something deeper below the surface – most often trauma – that draws an individual into a life of substance abuse. 

Whether your trauma stems from something that happened in childhood or as an adult, the mental and emotional impact of these events can be powerful – and they don’t just disappear. That is why many who have suffered through trauma turn to substance abuse as a means of self-medicating or coping. Unfortunately, addiction follows. To break this cycle, both the addiction and the trauma need to be addressed. 

What is Trauma?

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), trauma is “any disturbing experience that results in significant fear, helplessness, dissociation, confusion, or other disruptive feelings intense enough to have a long-lasting negative effect on a person’s attitudes, behavior, and other aspects of functioning. Traumatic events include those caused by human behavior (e.g., rape, war, industrial accidents) as well as by nature (e.g., earthquakes) and often challenge an individual’s view of the world as a just, safe, and predictable place.” 

A few common traumatic events are: 

  • Bullying
  • Car accidents
  • Fires
  • Domestic violence
  • Sexual assault or rape
  • Verbal/emotional abuse
  • Parental neglect/ unstable home life
  • Natural disasters
  • Chronic medical issues or pain

Immediately following trauma, feelings of shock, denial, and even anger are quite common. But, the impact of trauma will extend much further than just today, tomorrow, or next month. In fact, the impact of trauma can last a lifetime — especially if it is not appropriately addressed and treated. 

Some long-term effects of trauma are: 

  • Broken or strained relationships
  • Headaches
  • Flashbacks
  • Out of control emotions
  • Nausea

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), traumatic events are experienced by at least 51% of women and 61% of men at least once in their lifetime. 

Childhood Trauma

Childhood trauma is one type of trauma that many people feel the effects of, but many don’t even realize why. Sometimes things happened in the past that we actively repress and try to forget, and others, we have allowed our subconscious mind to push the painful memories aside without our conscious awareness. Regardless of how we have tried to help protect ourselves from these painful memories, childhood trauma is powerful. And it can impact survivors for a lifetime if not addressed. 

Childhood trauma, according to the Center for Child Trauma Assessment, Services, and Interventions, is “a scary, dangerous, violent, or life-threatening event that happens to a child (0-18 years of age). This type of event may also happen to someone your child knows and your child is impacted as a result of seeing or hearing about the other person being hurt or injured.”

Trauma Symptoms: Behavioral and Psychological

Whether you have experienced childhood trauma or a traumatic event in more recent years, the behavioral and psychological impact is still there. And, believe it or not, there are many short-term and long-term symptoms that can occur. It is important to remember, however, that trauma is very personal and it affects each person differently. 

Here are a few behavioral and psychological symptoms of trauma

  • Chronic irritability and aggravation
  • Fear and nervousness – even when it seems unfounded
  • Avoiding things that are reminiscent of the trauma
  • Uncontrolled – and excessive – emotions
  • Shy, social awkwardness
  • Lack of confidence
  • Major mood swings
  • Replaying the traumatic event over and over

Impact of Trauma on Life

Trauma can impact all areas of your life. It may have been something very personal that happened — and there may not be another soul on this planet who knows about the trauma. But the internal damage that the event/s caused can severely and negatively impact all areas of your life. 

Your work/career/professional life can be affected by your trauma. That’s right – it can follow you into the workplace. It controls how you relate to others, the level of trust you have, how you handle adversity and responsibility, and more. 

Relationships and friendships are also impacted by the lasting effects of your trauma. Again, trust issues play a big role in disrupting relationships. Understandably, intimacy can also be especially tough for those who have experienced sexual assault, abuse, or trauma. Overall, confidence, self-worth, sexual identity, unhealthy boundaries, all seem to surface. 

Living a quality life dealing with these effects of trauma can be incredibly difficult. 

The Link Between Trauma and Addiction

Now that you have an idea of just how powerful trauma can be — and how great of a hold it can have on your life, it is easier to understand how the search for relief can lead someone down the road to addiction. Whether it is the right or the wrong answer, the substance provides a moment of relief from the horrific trauma symptoms. 

It is usually never the intention of the individual to use a substance as a means of coping with the heavy emotions from trauma. But it is the lack of healthy coping skills that can allow the unhealthy coping skills to take over. And this momentary reprieve brought by drugs or alcohol abuse can very easily turn into a compulsion or habit and, eventually, an addiction. 

Trauma that is left untreated can lead to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). And both can make life rather difficult. Before you know it, treatment needs to be sought for both – the addiction and the trauma. 

Approach to Treatment

As you can tell, the effects of trauma don’t just disappear. They require you to work through them, slowly learning how to cope with the effects of the trauma. This means addressing the event itself and any triggers that may go along with it. And while you can’t just erase, you can learn to handle what happened to you — without having to turn to a substance to do so. 

Learning about habits and addictive behaviors, as well as how to manage your addiction is also crucial for a successful recovery. So, in other words, these situations can only be handled in a treatment program that addresses both issues.

If you find yourself dealing with addiction and an underlying trauma of any type, your best course of action is to seek a holistic women’s treatment center that will help you find healing for your whole body. 

 

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Substance Abuse Trauma

PTSD and Substance Abuse: Signs, Symptoms, and Treatment

It is not uncommon for those suffering from conditions such as PTSD to use substances like drugs and/or alcohol to self-medicate. While it may seem to be working initially, this can quickly lead to an addiction. 

For someone who has a co-occurring mental health disorder like PTSD with substance abuse, treatment needs to be planned in a way that will encompass all aspects of healing. 

Let’s take a look at PTSD and substance abuse. What does it look like? How is it treated? 

What is PTSD?

PTSD stands for post-traumatic stress disorder. This mental health disorder appears after one has been exposed or traumatized by an event or situation that caused a lot of stress. This may have been something that was life-threatening, violent, or causing severe injury. 

Those directly involved in a situation are the ones that typically experience PTSD. However, someone watching something traumatic take place is also prone to suffering from the condition. 

A few examples of situations that may lead to future PTSD are: 

  • Sexual abuse
  • Physical abuse
  • Emotional abuse
  • Violent crimes
  • Accidents
  • Grief
  • Natural disasters
  • Military experiences

Related: What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?

Signs and Symptoms of PTSD

PTSD comes with various symptoms and signs that vary from mood changes and avoidance to reactive and intrusive. It is very important to keep in mind that while individuals have to meet certain criteria to be diagnosed with this mental health disorder, symptoms and the way they are handled will vary from person to person. 

Below is a list of the most common signs and symptoms of PTSD

  • Avoiding specific people, locations, or events. 
  • Avoiding talking about certain topics or feelings. 
  • Lack of interest in things once enjoyed. 
  • Constant negative attitude or emotions toward others and oneself. 
  • Unable to remember the traumatic event. 
  • Disruptive sleep patterns. 
  • Psychological distress concerning the traumatic event. 
  • Nightmares or flashbacks.
  • Inability to concentrate. 
  • Self-destructive behaviors. 
  • Anger and aggression. 

PTSD and Substance Abuse

Many PTSD sufferers turn to something as a way of coping with the signs and symptoms we talked about above. They use alcohol or drugs of any kind to help make the painful and uncomfortable symptoms fade – even if only for a little while. They are often used: 

  • To be able to halt the ever-present thoughts about the traumatic event. 
  • To get some sleep without disturbances or nightmares.
  • To not feel the harsh emotions. 
  • To feel normal for a bit.  

Traumatic events are hard to talk about and even more difficult to try to face and work through. So, numbing becomes the go-to method for dealing with PTSD. Unfortunately, the more the feelings of PTSD are masked by substance use, the longer they will go unresolved. And the greater the chance that substance use can become an addiction. 

When Self-Medicating Turns to Addiction

Using drugs or alcohol as a way of self-medicating PTSD symptoms can quickly turn into an addiction without even realizing it. You begin feeling as though you cannot get through life without that substance since it is what helps you feel more normal. As a result, changes begin happening in the body make you crave the substance, unable to get through a day without it. 

If you have ever wondered when substance abuse turns into an addiction, here are a few signs and symptoms to look for: 

  • Inability to reduce usage or quit altogether. 
  • Using in place of activities once enjoyed. 
  • Strong cravings for the substance. 
  • Using the substance for a long period – longer than intended – and at a higher rate. 
  • Allowing the substance use to interfere with responsibilities to family or work. 
  • Putting substance use above physical health, relationships, and safety. 
  • Needing additional amounts of the substance to gain the desired effect. 

Treatment for PTSD and Co-Occurring Addiction

Seeking treatment is important for overcoming PTSD and addiction. A healthy life full of joy and contentment is a reachable goal, but both disorders need to be addressed in treatment for a successful outcome. 

An integrative, dual-diagnosis approach can allow individuals to use therapeutic tools like: 

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – A type of psychotherapy that helps modify thought patterns in an attempt to change thought patterns. 
  • Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) – A type of CBT that helps in processing the thoughts, emotions, and feelings that surround the traumatic event. 
  • Prolonged Exposure Therapy (PE) – A type of therapy that helps trauma survivors understand that the emotions and feelings they hold about a certain event are not actually harmful – and they don’t have to avoid them.

While gaining this therapy and the tools that will come from it in relation to PTSD, the individual is also going through a program to help with addiction. This means attending meetings and additional therapeutic sessions to learn how to overcome addictive behaviors. Often, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is used in addiction treatment, as well. 

Treatment can take place in several ways, depending on recommendations, preferences, financial ability, etc. For instance, there are often different levels of treatment available such as: 

Inpatient treatment is a type of treatment that takes place while living at the facility. These programs have everything needed on site. This is the best, most thorough option to find healing. 

Outpatient treatment means living at home while attending a program. There are lots of tools available to treat addiction and PTSD without interfering with daily responsibilities. 

Group treatment/counseling allows one to learn and grow from the experiences of others while improving social skills and interpersonal skills. 

Individual therapy is crucial in finding healing. This is where you find CBT, PE, and CPT methods being used with PTSD.

Always discuss your situation with professionals to determine the best individual treatment program for you. 

A well-designed program for co-occurring disorders, such as PTSD and addiction, will have a whole-body approach to wellness. This inpatient, intensive program works the mind, body, and spirit. Working with therapists and professionals who have an understanding that someone is struggling with both conditions can help cater the treatment approach accordingly. 

PTSD and addiction each require a lot of attention and focus to get through, but with the right treatment approach, it can be done successfully. 

If you’re interested in joining a treatment program, contact Villa Kali Ma to learn more about our unique approach and discover the treatment options we offer.

Categories
Trauma

Trauma-Focused Therapy For Adults

As the addiction treatment world has developed, we’ve broadened our understanding of what is considered best practice in trauma-focused therapy for adults. Not only is it essential for us to address the cognitive impacts of trauma, but it is increasingly important to address where trauma is stored in the body as well. Holistic modalities designed to address this aspect of trauma are fundamental to long-term sustainability in addiction and trauma recovery. 

There are two different categories of diagnosable trauma: acute and complex. Acute trauma occurs when a person survives an event such as warfare, a car accident, an assault, natural disasters, etc. On the other hand, complex trauma is the result of pervasive and consistent instances of traumatic experiences. These are typically repeating circumstances that compound upon one another, such as domestic abuse, neglect, or bullying. The effects of these traumatic experiences may lead to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, which is characterized by symptoms such as flashbacks, nightmares, dissociation, hypervigilance, and more. 

Often, a diagnosis of PTSD accompanies other mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, and substance use. We as a treatment community recognize the impact that traumatic experiences have on many women today and that it may feel impossible to know where to begin in the healing journey. 

Six Holistic Healing Therapies for Trauma 

Here at Villa Kali Ma, we utilize an integrative holistic approach to treat trauma that includes the following modalities. 

Yoga therapy

Many of us hold trauma and stress in the body and brain without even being aware that we do so. The practice of yoga allows us to connect to our bodies in a safe, yet enlightening way. We can learn to notice our physical sensations and psychological experiences and integrate them to become more aligned with our highest self. 

Yoga can teach us how to hold space for and honor all parts of ourselves. Doing yoga is much more than physical poses, but rather is a holistic philosophy consisting of various practices of connection with body and spirit.  

Meditation and mindfulness therapy 

As defined by one of its pioneers, Jon Kabat-Zinn, mindfulness is “awareness that arises by paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.” Research has shown that practicing mindfulness activates the part of the brain associated with stress, anxiety, and emotional processing, allowing for increased mental flexibility and relaxation. Targeting these brain functions can have a direct impact in reducing trauma symptoms and cultivating more peace in the present moment. 

Meditation is one of the ways to practice mindfulness. A consistent meditation practice includes emotional awareness, body movement, and breathwork and will promote focus, peace, and healing. Practicing meditation and mindfulness will also enhance body-awareness, stability, and balance. 

Massage therapy 

Massage therapy has demonstrated the ability to significantly reduce physical and emotional pain due to trauma stored in the body. Massage therapy alters EEG activity, increases activity in the parasympathetic nervous system, and decreases cortisol levels. These physiological changes result in a reduction of anxiety and calm both the body and the brain. 

Reiki therapy

Reiki therapy is energy healing designed to stimulate energy fields to relieve stored trauma in the body and its emotional effects. The Reiki practitioner uses gentle touch to manipulate and transmit healing energy throughout the patient’s body. Reiki has reduced PTSD symptoms and relaxes the body, mind, and nervous system, inviting alignment and integration of the being. Additionally, Reiki attends to the chakras, rebalancing and unblocking them throughout the practice. 

Acupuncture therapy

Acupuncture is a practice that involves inserting tiny, thin needles into specific points on the body to stimulate different nerves, muscles, and connective tissue. Acupuncture views the body as a system of interconnected pathways, and if each path is unable to flow freely, physical and emotional distress occurs. Through stimulating the different acupressure points, the energy through the body regulates, and negative symptoms decrease. This practice helps balance the flow of energy and restore harmony in the body.

Mental health therapy 

We can use trauma-informed therapeutic approaches in individual, family, and group therapy sessions to process and heal the effects of PTSD. There are a variety of treatment modalities that address unprocessed and repressed trauma symptoms. Somatic approaches such as eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy (EMDR) allows the client to heal their trauma without being re-traumatized. At Villa Kali Ma, we use EMDR and breathwork synonymously to maintain a sense of calm throughout the exercise and release trauma stored in the body. We complete breathwork sessions with clients twice a week for an hour at a time. 

More traditional talk therapy approaches, including trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy (TF-CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), are evidence-based practices that have effectively treated trauma in a number of people. 

Mind, Body, & Spirit Healing

Villa Kali Ma enlists a team of trained professionals in a variety of the modalities mentioned above, allowing us to provide integrative, holistic services to heal the mind, body, and spirit. 

Each client’s treatment plan is personalized to their individual needs to ensure the most effective treatment. We commit to cultivating a welcoming and non-judgmental environment offering a safe space for you on your healing journey. 

Connect with us today to learn more about how we help women heal from trauma and addiction!

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Trauma

Trauma-Informed Yoga Therapy: A Path to Inner-Peace 

If you struggle to cope with the symptoms of trauma, you may be interested in the benefits of trauma informed yoga therapy.

Trauma refers to the experience of an event that threatens or violates our basic sense of safety. While a traumatic event can be identified by external factors, our response to such an event varies according to our own psychological experience.

As our society becomes more attuned to the importance of mental wellness for all, our ability to recognize the lasting effects of trauma on those who have experienced it has increased.

In this article, we’re exploring the benefits of trauma informed yoga therapy.

Trauma-Informed Yoga Therapy

Trauma response is the term used to describe our unique way of coping with having experienced the traumatic event. When our trauma response persists long after the actual event has passed, we are likely suffering from a trauma-related mental health disorder.

Symptoms of persistent trauma response can range from mild to severe and can include both mental and physical problems. Some of the more common symptoms resulting from the inability to move past trauma include guilt, fear, hopelessness, avoidance, and substance use. If not addressed properly, the consequences of untreated trauma response can spill over into all areas of our life. Those who find it difficult to move past the effects of trauma on their lives can find that they continue to struggle in romantic relationships, parenting, careers, and more.

Here’s what you need to know about trauma informed yoga therapy.

Trauma-Informed Care

Due to the need to treat trauma response as an underlying factor in several other types of mental health disorders, many types of existing therapies have evolved to incorporate a specialized focus. Seeking to treat the mental health conditions arising from trauma without addressing the effects of the trauma itself is like putting a bandaid on a gaping wound.

Trauma informed therapy strives to provide a more holistic approach to healing by focusing on the root of the problem

Yoga as a Treatment for Trauma Response

By itself, yoga has been increasing in popularity in westernized nations since the 1960s. Long touted as a means of obtaining inner peace and overall health in eastern cultures, yoga is characterized by gaining a sense of emotional balance and mental clarity, while simultaneously strengthening the bodies which serve as the vehicles by which we navigate the planet. Yoga has become a staple in wellness programs that promote a holistic approach to treatment.

Yoga has also joined the ranks of treatment therapies which have recognized the devastating role that trauma can play in our overall ability to live a life of wellness. Trauma-Sensitive Yoga (TSY) and Neurogenic Yoga are two of the leading approaches when it comes to utilizing the healing power of yoga to assist victims of trauma in regaining a sense of control over their lives. Sessions are carefully designed and moderated by yoga teachers who are specially trained in the needs and concerns of those who are living under the shadow of trauma.

Fostering Safety

The most dominating characteristic of trauma is that of experiencing a situation where your sense of safety has been taken from you. Whether this lack of safety has been experienced as a genuine life-or-death scenario, or as being in a mindset of fear that such may end up being the case, restoration of that sense of safety is at the heart of all trauma-centered approaches. As such, the format of a trauma-informed yoga session is designed to foster a sense of ease and unconditional acceptance for participants. There is no pressure to conform to the expectations of the group. Participants can come and go as they please, and are able to participate to the extent that they feel comfortable.

Relaxing The Nervous System

When we are faced with a threatening scenario, our nervous system goes into overdrive. Trauma response involves the activation of our primitive survival response, which includes the familiar flight-or-fight reaction, along with a few others. During the time that we are genuinely in danger, these responses are well designed to assist us in staying alive. After the danger has passed, a body that maintains that hypervigilance indefinitely is one that is also slowly tearing itself apart. Using yoga as a means of slowing down and mindfully encouraging the nervous system to relax not only has the potential to prolong your life but has the added benefit of reducing the brain fog that is created while living with constant feelings of anxiety.

Focusing on the Present

Mindfulness is a core tenant of yoga. Mindfulness involves turning thoughts away from the past or the future and disciplining the mind to focus on only what is in the immediate present. For many who suffer from trauma response, their thoughts are prone toward rumination about the past event or consumed with worry about the possibility of the event happening again in the future. Being mindful allows the opportunity to recharge without the past and future robbing you of energy. 

In trauma-centered yoga therapy, there is a specialized awareness of the impact that sitting in the present may have on a trauma survivor. Becoming acutely aware of oneself during a period of meditation or mindfulness may reactivate – or trigger – memories and sensations of the trauma that had previously remained hidden or dormant. Skilled facilitators will know to recognize, adapt, and support trauma survivors should the experience become too intense.

Regaining Control

The increased ability to connect with one’s inner voice is what draws many people toward the practice of yoga. In the case of those who are dealing with trauma, it may have been quite a long time since their inner voice has been loud enough to drown out the nagging chatter self-doubt, and the demanding attention of fear.

When we are driven by forces outside of ourselves, such as in the case of trauma response, we are operating under an external locus of control.

Our power to make decisions of our own free will has been replaced by outside influences. Practicing trauma-informed yoga provides a means of reconnecting with the inner self, learning to listen to the cues of the body, and learning to redirect thoughts and energy in a way that is self-nurturing.

With practice, you will learn to take back the power that has been stolen from you as a result of the experience of trauma. Learn more about our Trauma Therapy & PTSD Treatment here at Villa Kali Ma.

Categories
Trauma

The Connection Between Trauma and Substance Abuse

Trauma reaction is a normal and natural human response to experiences of genuine threat to life and safety. When we are exposed to severely distressing events, our minds, bodies, and emotions go into overdrive.

This can result in uncomfortable feelings. It’s not uncommon for trauma survivors to turn to substances, like alcohol or prescription drugs, in an attempt to numb those feelings. This is particularly dangerous, as substance abuse can turn into an addiction and cause serious health issues.

In this article, we’re taking a closer look at the connection between trauma and substance abuse as well as the benefits of starting your sustainable recovery.

Trauma and Substance Abuse

What starts out as an anxious survival response to the situation – such as going into a flight-or-fight mode during the event – naturally progresses into exploring the stages of grief. If these steps are navigated successfully to the point of finding a way to be at peace, a person can be considered as having moved past the trauma. If these recovery steps are not obtained, the trauma can be identified as evolving into a mental health disorder.

Here’s what you need to know about trauma and substance abuse.

Types of Trauma

The initial concept of treating trauma as a mental health condition began as a response to veterans returning from WWII. It was discovered that soldiers, who had no indication of mental health disorder prior to joining the war, were exhibiting debilitating symptoms upon their return home. Being exposed to the daily threat of their own death, and being exposed to the death of those around them, had severely traumatized them.

As the concept has developed, experts have recognized that there are more sources than the experience of war which can result in a traumatic response. Any situation which threatens our sense of safety – even if that perception is subjective – can contribute to changes in the brain which manifest as a maladaptive response to trauma. Some of the sources of trauma are obvious, and some are more hidden.

Childhood Trauma

Women who have experienced childhood trauma, including neglect or abandonment, are particularly vulnerable to substance abuse. Research found childhood trauma is responsible for around 30% of mental disorders and substance use disorders are among the most frequent mental disorders following traumatic events. Neglect and abandonment are two of the most common issues among women suffering from substance abuse. Childhood trauma may also involve witnessing domestic violence, verbal abuse, emotional abuse, the loss of a parent, and more.

Sexual Assualt

With many sexual assault cases, the victim experiences a genuine fear that she may be killed. Even if fear of death was not a direct concern, the experience of having your inalienable rights to your physical body taken away from you by force or coercion is an extremely violating and traumatic experience. Trauma response symptoms to sexual assault and rape include difficulty trusting others, fear of being in public, and feelings of guilt.

Physical Abuse

As with sexual assault, experiences of physical abuse can be considered life-threatening, or not. The amount of fear that is generated when someone is attempting to avoid the wrath and physical cruelty of an abuser can create the conditions of long-lasting trauma response. Trauma symptoms as a result of physical abuse include exaggerated startle response, avoidance of activities, and fear of speaking up for oneself.

Emotional and Psychological Abuse

Emotional and psychological abuse are some of the more hidden monsters in our society. They are not tangible or empirically observable, which makes it hard for our legal system to intervene in such cases with an appropriate response. While the immediate effects of this form of abuse may not be as apparent as those suffered in other forms of trauma, enduring sustained abuse of this type can alter our ability to cope and respond to situations without a maladaptive reaction.

Other Risks to Safety

As previously mentioned, experiences involving life-or-death scenarios are prime candidates for generating the conditions of persistent trauma. Narrowly missing death in the form of a car accident, crime scene, workplace hazard, or even a natural disaster can leave a person to deal with the stress, anxiety, and depression which are characteristic of trauma response. Those who encounter these types of scenarios on a daily basis – such as law enforcement, medical staff, and firefighters – need to be particularly mindful of their ability to cope with the repeated exposure to traumatic events.

Trauma and Substance Abuse

Within the field of mental health, there is a habit referred to as self-medication. This term describes the tendency of people to attempt to fix a mental health problem by using non-prescribed drugs or alcohol to numb the discomfort. While taking steps to address a problem on one’s own is a valued characteristic in our culture, attempting to treat trauma through self-medication rarely goes well. 

Research has shown that up to 75% of civilian trauma victims report having a substance abuse problem. Women who experience trauma are at a high risk of developing a dependence on alcohol. Adolescents who experience sexual abuse are nine times more likely to develop an addiction to hard drugs.

Co-occurring Disorders

When substance abuse is combined a with mental health disorder, the condition is known as a co-occurring disorder. Sometimes, the symptoms that are present during co-occurring disorders can be difficult to untangle.

Substance abuse and mental health disorders tend to interact in a way that both creates and compounds the situation. In spite of the difficulty of the task of unboxing the problem, experts have recognized that – in order for treatment to be effective – both the substance abuse and the underlying mental health condition need to be simultaneously addressed.

Removing the substance use without treating the trauma will only leave a door wide open for the temptation to resume the drug or alcohol use.

Effective Treatment for Co-occurring Trauma Disorders

When seeking treatment for substance abuse and trauma, it is important to employ the services of a team that has both substance abuse counselors and mental health experts available. While both of the areas of concern will be addressed, it is often the case that the components will be sectioned out. Addiction counselors are certified in their area of expertise, and often have their own experiences with substance abuse and recovery. Licensed mental health professionals are equipped with the education and knowledge for helping you successfully navigate the mental and emotional road to recovery from your trauma.

Substance abuse treatment can include a combination of medications, group support, and the development of coping skills to reduce your tendency to use substances as a response to the uncomfortable feelings associated with your trauma. The type of therapeutic support that you receive will depend on the orientation of the therapist. Some of the more effective therapeutic approaches to treating trauma include Trauma-focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT) and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR.) Both of these specialty treatment modalities require specific training on behalf of the therapist.

Conclusion

Surviving a traumatic experience can have a profound impact on your life. If you’ve experienced trauma and find yourself turning to alcohol or drugs as a form of self-medication to ease the feelings of pain or discomfort, you may be at risk of developing an addiction.

If you regularly turn to substances for comfort, consider exploring the benefits of joining a holistic healing program designed specifically for women. We offer Trauma Informed Therapy for women interested in healing their wounds and moving forward without drugs or alcohol.