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Trauma at any age can cause a cluster of symptoms that occur in the wake of a distressing incident. There are 3 components of trauma, the 3 E's:
PTSD is about the effects. It is one of the mental disorders in the Diagnostic & Statistical Manual (DSM). A person diagnoised with PTSD has 4 main symptom clusters:
It is really important to note that PTSD is not the only way trauma impacts our mental & physical health.
This is the first cluster of PTSD, which includes recurring, unwanted images & thoughts of the traumatic event, and dreams or nightmares. This is related to the brain's effort to make sense of the world. Trauma is threatening & far outside of our usual experience, shattering our inner landscape and worldview. This process involves both conscious and unconscious repetitive "reenactment" behaviors, or writings, drawing, sculpting, or playing. Again & again, revisiting the moment, looking through the wreckage, take something and move it to a safe haven.
These arise when someone feels distressed after being reexposed to people, places, or other reminders of the original traumatic events. In some ways, avoidant behaviors are an attempt to regain control over what feels like the uncontrollability of the traumatic experience. It is a part of the dissociative response to a threat, especially when it is unavoidable & distressing, to give yourself the sense of protection.
This alteration in arousal and reactivity are derived from the sensitized stress-response networks being overactive and overly reactive. They include anxiety, hypervigilance, increased startle response, high and variable heart rate and sleep problems. Having the survival mode of fight, flight or freeze activated even in the absence of presence threats causes the body to lose a calibrated response to normal daily life.
When all 4 of these categories are present, then it is labeled as PTSD. The majority of the long term effects don't manifest as PTSD.
The effects of trauma stretch far & wide across generations & communities, & it is important to come to the central question with compassion:
What happened to you?
The objective question helps you to remove the personal narrative assigned to your traumatic experience, with the intention of bringing yourself into the awareness of what occurred and how you were impacted.
Findings show that your history of relational health - connectedness to family, community, & culture - is more predictive of your mental health than your history of adversity. Connectedness has the power to counter balance adversity.
The timing of the adversity makes a huge difference in determining overall risk. Put simply, if you experience trauma at age 2, it will have more impact on your health than the same trauma taking place at age 17.
Experiences of the first 2 months of life have a disproportionate important impact on your longterm health and development due to rapid brain growth.
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