Maybe you’ve heard the terms PTSD, Secondary Trauma or Vicarious Trauma?
Below I list ways trauma can impact us. Read further to discover if you might be experiencing symptoms that can be helped with intervention and support.
Some of the most common symptoms of PTSD include:
- Being easily startled
- Anger or irritability
- Difficulty sleeping or insomnia
- Loss of interest or loss of pleasure
- Recurring nightmare of the traumatic event
- Feeling emotionally cut off from others
- Being alert and prepared for flight or fight mode
- Difficulty concentrating
These symptoms may not surface for months or years after the actual event occurred. Sometimes these symptoms will be present while other times they are absent. However, if they continue over time and begin to disrupt your daily life, you may be experiencing PTSD or Secondary Trauma.
- Avoiding places or things that remind you of what happened
- Turning to alcohol or drugs to cope with the trauma
- Thoughts of self-harm or harming others
- A need to keep busy with work or other hobbies to occupy your mind
Did you know that research shows that individuals who work directly with trauma survivors or in emergency responder fields are prone to experiencing symptoms of PTSD?
The work of Charles Figley guides the interventions and assessments I use to increase clients’ awareness of how they are impacted by their work. By increasing awareness, it helps design a method of coping that will meet your needs to continue to find meaning and purpose in your work again. I have been studying with “Building Warriors” to also learn best methods to support police officers, firefighters, emergency medical responders, etc. This training teaches me how to honor and support those who serve our community on a daily basis.
Have you been exposed to a traumatic event directly or indirectly that keeps replaying in your heart and mind?
Maybe when you close your eyes, images flash in your mind of an event you witnessed or stories you’ve heard from victims you’ve worked with and you cannot seem to shake their trauma narratives from your thoughts or mind. You’ve helped others before without any issues, but this time it sticks like glue. You are more irritable with loved ones, less patient, and you have intrusive thoughts or visions of victims you’ve helped. Emotions range from extreme highs to extreme lows. Maybe your sleep is disrupted by chaotic nightmares. You never seem to wake feeling refreshed or rested.
Did you wake one day and find the idea of work making you physically ill, anxious, and on edge?
Perhaps you were finally settling into your job, gaining the respect of peers and superiors. You had successfully built an armor that felt impenetrable. You were able to separate the stress of what you did daily and came home without your work spilling over into your personal life. Then one day, one situation or event lingers in your heart and mind, and you cannot shake it. You don’t understand why this one is having such a negative impact, but you know you need help and support.
Maybe you are experiencing lack of sleep, feelings of anxiety and a sense of gloom and doom begin to create conflict in your personal and professional life. You feel more alone and isolated than ever.
It is easier to push others away. Nobody could understand the thoughts or weight of the experiences you carry. An accumulation of the traumatic stories you’ve heard and the abuse or violence you’ve witnessed leaves a residue on your daily life. You are experiencing secondary trauma, also known as “vicarious trauma.” Between 40% and 85% of “helping professionals” develop vicarious trauma, compassion fatigue and/or high rates of traumatic symptoms according to compassion fatigue expert Francoise Mathieu (2012).
Suddenly life as you knew it has changed, and not for the better.
Suddenly you have a sense of hopelessness that the work you once believed in is no longer making a difference. You can no longer enjoy or take pleasure in activities you once enjoyed. Maybe you feel tired constantly and are missing more work. You feel detached, hopeless, struggle with low self-image and worry you are not doing enough. You are experiencing PTSD-like symptoms, secondary trauma.
Maybe there are times when you catch yourself thinking, “What’s the point?”
Sometimes you seem to have lost the reason for why you do the work you do. Perhaps you find yourself managing social situations best if you toss back enough booze to take the edge off. Once you start drinking, you don’t want to stop because the numbness helps remove the sting of the thoughts that burn inside your skull. If you aren’t forced into a social setting, you isolate and avoid friends and family.
For some it will be a poor job performance evaluation that jolts your awareness. Others it will be an angry spouse that can’t take you shirking responsibilities and has had it with your irritability and being pushed away, or cannot accept your detachment any longer. A boss or family member might demand you find a trauma recovery therapist. This will make you even more angry and resistant because you do not understand why suddenly what has never bothered you has suddenly begun to consume you in a way that does not make sense.
You don’t have to do this alone.
If you believe you may be experiencing secondary trauma, I can help you get back in control of your life. Individual therapy offers an opportunity for you to understand new interventions and strategies to restore your sense of well-being. I offer creative and practical solutions to help you get your needs met. I offer psycho-education to help you understand why the tools I teach are effective and why they will work for you to combat secondary trauma related to workplace stress and exposure to trauma directly and indirectly.
You can regain control. Get the help you want the way you want it!
When you are able to safely explore what is happening within you, it creates an opportunity to tame the chaos that has disrupted your sense of order. By learning healthy ways to dump unwanted or unhelpful psychological material, you can learn how to get your needs met to understand what is happening and manage the symptoms of secondary trauma. I collaborate with you throughout the trauma recovery process and match my therapeutic methods to your learning style. I personalize mindfulness techniques, include creativity, and offer a no-nonsense approach.
You won’t be expected to re-tell your trauma unless that is what you need to move forward. After years of working with trauma victims, I have observed that at times nonverbal can expel emotional and psychological matter in a way that words at times might not capture. We carry trauma in our bodies, minds, and deeper. You have been there for so many others, now I am here for you.