Take the needed steps to heal from trauma
Recently, researchers at the University of Texas completed a study of 32 teenagers to determine whether a traumatic event earlier in their lives had any impact on developing depression. About half of the teens who participated in the study had had some kind of abuse or trauma before the age of 10. The researchers defined the trauma as significant abuse or neglect lasting six months or longer, or a major traumatic experience like life-threatening illness, witnessing domestic violence or losing a parent. The other half of the teens had not had such trauma in their lives.
For an average of 3-1/2 years, the teens were studied every six months. The researchers found that half of the teens who had experienced trauma ended up with diagnosable issues such as depression or addiction. Only one of the children in the group that had not experienced trauma developed similar issues.
Brain scans of the traumatized teens showed a significant reduction in the brain function that assists with behavior planning and emotional regulation.
In the work that I do with my clients, I have found that the majority of them have had some kind of trauma from their past. Trauma affects individuals at the cellular level of the body, meaning that the effects of the trauma are stored in the very building blocks of our bodies. Thus, individuals with such trauma become more sensitive to experiences of rejection, abandonment, loss, and loneliness.
With such sensitivity, they then try to find ways to manage the painfulness of the trauma through a variety of sources including food, sex, drugs, alcohol, gambling, and spending money. And the fact that the United States has one of the highest obesity rates, highest number of individuals in debt, highest addiction rates, and highest medicated adult cohorts in the history of the world indicates to me that there is a whole lot of people trying to numb their trauma.
Unfortunately, the usual methods of numbing don't actually work, which then causes a repetitive cycle of engaging in numbing behaviors and then feeling pain afterwords.
The good news is that with the ongoing research like that being done at the University of Texas, we are also learning that the brain can heal from trauma. People who have been traumatized can heal from it, releasing the trauma stored in the cells of their body and brain — allowing them to become free and happy.
People can take steps to heal from the trauma through counseling, attending 12-step or other support groups, journaling, and even simply talking about it with a trusted friend. There are many ways people can heal. Just because a person experienced trauma as a child does not mean they have to carry it around with them for the rest of their lives.
Troy Love is an adjunct professor at Arizona Western College and the clinical director of Courageous Journeys Counseling and Consulting Services. He can be reached at 276-9535 or email@example.com.