EMDR Trauma Therapy

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a type of therapy that can help individuals overcome the effects of a trauma or other distressing life experiences. When the impact of a traumatic event blocks emotional healing, EMDR can help remove that block so that healing can occur. EMDR has been particularly useful in treating individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) by processing the emotions around the event, and then methodically decreasing the potency of the disturbing event.

What is Trauma Disorder?

Trauma disorder occurs after someone has experienced or witnessed a highly traumatic event, and then struggles to overcome the resulting emotional impairment caused by the incident. When the resulting symptoms do not resolve after one month, this is deemed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

A trauma is an event that causes intense feelings of fear, or feeling that one’s life is threatened, often accompanied by a sense of lack of control. Examples of traumas include:

  • Physical or sexual assault
  • Serious auto accident
  • Natural disaster
  • Terrorist attack
  • Combat or war
  • Sudden death of loved one

Much of the residual suffering is related to feelings of being shocked by the event, therefore mentally unprepared. Some may suppress the feelings related to the trauma, preferring to be in denial, while others may exhibit symptoms outwardly, either way they lead to functional impairment.

Symptoms following a traumatic event include:

  • Flashbacks
  • Nightmares
  • Invasive, distressing memories
  • Blaming self or others
  • Loss of interest in things once enjoyed
  • Emotionally numb, detached
  • Physical reaction to memories of event, such as sweating, pounding heart
  • Over-reactive, easily startled
  • Aggression
  • Insomnia
  • Feeling isolated
  • Avoiding situations or people that may trigger memories of event
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Engaging in risky behaviors
  • Substance abuse
  • Hyper-awareness

What is EMDR Trauma Therapy?

EMDR is an 8-step program that helps individuals gradually overcome their response to the thought of the trauma. The therapist will review the client history of the trauma or traumas to identify the distressing memories or stress-provoking current situations to target during processing. Therapy may begin with childhood events. There therapist will use a finger or other item to create bilateral stimulation, moving the stimulus back and forth while the patient follows it with their eyes.

Over the course of the EMDR program, the individual will incrementally be exposed to the painful event, discussing it with the therapist while following the stimulus back and forth. By talking about the trauma, using the bilateral stimulation, allows the event to gradually lose power. At the end of the sessions the individual will have transformed their thinking from victimhood to one of empowerment.

How Does EMDR Trauma Therapy Work?

EMDR trauma therapy is a type of exposure therapy that works using the biological mechanisms involved in Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep. EMDR can help trauma victims shift their thought patterns towards positive, proactive ones. Over the course of treatment, the therapist will guide the individual through the process of acknowledging the event, along with the negative thoughts and body sensations that emerge. During the later portion of treatment the therapist guides the client to shift their thoughts toward a positive belief about themselves, one that was initially identified at the beginning of the treatment. They will then begin to focus on this positive vision of themselves as the exposure therapy continues, resulting in feeling empowered and transformed.

Residential Treatment for PTSD

Emotional trauma can literally paralyze someone, severely impacting their ability to function and often leading to lives of seclusion and substance abuse. When outpatient interventions are not sufficient for helping someone reclaim their life, a residential program may be the best treatment approach.

Residential treatment offers individuals in distress to take a breather from “real life” and reside in a calm, safe, and supportive environment while working through the issues related to the trauma. PTSD can be deeply ingrained, which takes time to unwind and process. Residential treatment provides an extended treatment period for slowly, methodically overcoming the traumatic event.

Treatment will be designed specifically for each individual person, as no two traumas, or responses to a trauma, are alike. The treatment plan will included a comprehensive mix of relevant exposure therapy, such as trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy or prolonged exposure, both tailored to help individuals with PTSD. In addition, adjunctive methods, such as EMDR and holistic activities, can augment the effects of the psychotherapy.

Continuing Care for PTSD

Following a residential treatment program for PTSD it is essential that recovery is protected and strengthened with appropriate aftercare efforts. The individual will be in a much stronger place following the intensive residential program, but will need to reinforce the skills learned in treatment to maintain the recovery.

This can be accomplished by continuing to receive weekly outpatient therapy. This can be in the form of individual psychotherapy sessions or in group sessions. In fact, groups that gather to discuss daily challenges are often quite effective sources of support for individuals recovering from PTSD. Led by a therapist, the groups will tackle topics of discussion and share their personal experiences, such as encountering triggers, and how they managed that challenge.

Participating in holistic activities is another protective factor following residential treatment. These activities are highly effective in assisting individuals in managing stress and promoting relaxation. Some of these activities include yoga classes, meditation, mindfulness training, massage therapy, acupuncture, hypnotherapy, and guided imagery programs.

It is possible to overcome the devastating effects of a traumatic event. EMDR, along with psychotherapy and holistic activities can help move one through the pain of the trauma and toward a renewed sense of self-empowerment.

Elevation Behavioral Health Leading Provider of Mental Health Services Los Angeles

Elevation Behavioral Health is a premier residential mental health center that treats individuals with trauma disorder. Our comprehensive approach includes a mix of evidence-based psychotherapies, holistic therapies, and adjunctive therapies such as EMDR. EMDR has been shown to compliment the conventional therapies by helping individuals overcome the effects of trauma in a more expedient manner. For more information about our residential program, please contact Elevation Behavioral Health today at (888) 561-0868.

severe emotional trauma symptoms

Each of us has a unique and personal emotional history, a story unlike anyone else’s. Not only is our life experience our very own, but so is our temperament or personality, which influences in a significant way how we will respond to the presenting stressors in our lives. When we encounter a traumatizing event, how we as individuals process that experience will draw from our own psychological backdrop.

This means, for example, that if we have a childhood history of sexual abuse, we will respond differently to a sexual assault in adulthood, with deep roots of emotional memory attached to the experience. This compounded trauma may result in a sustained trauma disorder, referred to as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Someone without an emotional scar from childhood may also experience trauma disorder, however they may not suffer the severe emotional trauma symptoms, and they may be able to process through the traumatic experience at a faster pace.

Because of the individualized response to witnessing or experiencing a traumatic event, it is important to know that seeking psychological support is always helpful. When a trauma has the effect of paralyzing the individual, seriously disrupting daily life and impairing functioning, a residential mental health program would be an appropriate level of care.

Understanding Psychological Trauma

A traumatic event is something that is witnessed or experienced firsthand that creates a sense of deep fear and lack of control over the situation. Examples of traumas might include:

  • Physical assault
  • Sexual assault
  • Atrocities related to military combat
  • Serious auto accident
  • Sudden death of a loved one
  • Serious health event or diagnosis
  • Natural disaster
  • Terrorism

The traumatic event is often something that was unexpected, sudden, unpredicted. The individual experiencing the event may feel powerless, which adds to the severe emotional trauma symptoms. But even life events that evoke a sense of fear of the unknown or a feeling of having no control over the outcome can also be considered traumatic. These might include a divorce, having to relocate suddenly, a parent’s health issues, or loss of a job and other major financial setbacks.

Severe Emotional Trauma Symptoms

Individuals struggling with the aftermath of experiencing a trauma may exhibit a range of symptoms, including psychological and physical. These symptoms may include:

Psychological symptoms of trauma

  • Detachment
  • Emotional numbness
  • Depression
  • Feelings of guilt or shame
  • Irritability
  • Anger
  • Mood swings
  • Confusion
  • Nightmares, flashbacks
  • Loss of interest in usual activities
  • Withdraw from friends and family
  • Obsessive/compulsive symptoms
  • Anxiety

Physical symptoms of trauma

  • Insomnia
  • Dry mouth
  • Change in eating and sleeping habits
  • Vague symptoms of aches and pains
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Muscle tension
  • Hyper-arousal, easily startled
  • Fatigue

The symptoms that follow a trauma may emerge immediately after the event or may be delayed, even by weeks or months. In some individuals the symptoms continue to worsen over time, culminating in a PTSD diagnosis.

Types of Treatment for Trauma Disorder

Treatment for trauma disorder relies on a blend of therapies and activities as well as medication when indicated.

  • Individual psychotherapy is very beneficial, especially behavior therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy, prolonged exposure therapy, and dialectical behavior therapy.
  • Group therapy, including family therapy, is also helpful as it allows trauma victims to share about their experience and express their emotions in a safe, supportive setting.
  • Exposure therapy helps reduce the impact of the traumatic memories by incrementally desensitizing the individual to the event by exposing them to triggers.
  • Psychodynamic therapy helps for deep-seated childhood traumas, as this type of therapy explores early experiences to see how they are impacting present life.

Other Therapies for Treating Psychological Trauma

Holistic therapies, such as yoga, mindfulness meditation, massage therapy, hypnotherapy, and guided imagery can be useful in helping the individual overcome the fear-based stress that follows a trauma. These activities all promote relaxation while providing relief from stress.

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, or EMDR, is useful for helping to desensitize the individual from the impact of the traumatic memories. In an 8-part program the therapist asks the individual to use their eyes to follow an object or finger back and forth while they discuss the trauma with the person. By focusing their attention on the stimulus it helps to reduce the impact of what they are discussing.

Keeping a journal is also helpful in resolving the pain of a trauma. Just writing down the thoughts, fears, memories, and emotions regarding the traumatic event can help sort out the issues around the trauma while diffusing some of the potency of the memories.

Elevation Behavioral Health Provides Residential Treatment for Trauma Disorder

Elevation Behavioral Health is a residential mental health treatment center in Los Angeles. Elevation treats severe emotional trauma symptoms using an integrated approach that includes conventional evidence-based therapies, medication, EMDR, and holistic therapies. Each individual patient’s unique trauma history will dictate the customized therapy he or she will receive. For more details about our residential program, please contact Elevation Behavioral Health today at (888) 561-0868.

childhood trauma ptsd

Children deserve to feel safe and loved while they are growing up. A stable, supportive, and loving environment allows a child to develop trust bonds with their family members, knowing their loved ones have their back as they navigate childhood. For far too many children, this nurturing family life is not their reality. According to the National Children’s Alliance, almost 700,000 children suffer abuse each year in the U.S., with a large percentage of those experiencing neglect.

Childhood trauma can take many forms. Physical or sexual abuse, sudden death of a loved one, witnessing domestic abuse, experiencing a natural disaster, surviving a serious car accident, and other intense emotional experiences all constitute trauma. When a child is exposed to a traumatic event it leaves an indelible scar on their psyche, especially when it is a repeated trauma as in ongoing physical or sexual assault.

Eventually the child grows up and incorporates the lingering emotional fallout from having been traumatized in their younger years into their adult behaviors and psyche. Childhood trauma PTSD is often the result of unresolved psychological harm. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a debilitating condition that results in maladaptive behaviors in order to cope with the residual pain. Getting to the bottom of the childhood trauma and working through the emotional scars provides the roadmap toward resolving adult dysfunctional behaviors.

About Childhood Trauma

When a child experiences a traumatic event, or continuing trauma, their ability to process and cope becomes overwhelmed by the sense of danger and fear of injury. A child has not yet formed the coping mechanisms needed and becomes unable to process the threat or emotional pain psychologically. Instead, many children who have been exposed to trauma develop certain symptoms of PTSD, including:

  • Fear of dying
  • Bad dreams, nightmares, night terrors
  • Wetting the bed although formerly potty trained
  • Expressing emotional reactions when exposed to triggers or reminders
  • Irritability, agitation
  • Angry outbursts, violent behavior
  • Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Extreme emotional reactivity
  • Loss of interests in activities once enjoyed
  • Physical complaints, such as stomach distress and headaches
  • Hyper-vigilance
  • Clingy behavior
  • Regressing to younger age

In response to trauma, children adapt certain methods of coping with its after affects.  Depending on the degree of the threat or harm, the developmental state of the child when it happened, the child’s innate ability to cope with adversity, and the child’s support system, PTSD will develop or not.

Childhood Trauma PTSD Connection

If the child does retain the emotional damage caused by a traumatic event(s) in childhood they will likely carry the residual effects into adulthood. This can result in interpersonal problems and general impairment in daily functioning.

Signs of PTSD in Adults

  • Emotional detachment
  • Alcoholism or drug abuse
  • Depression
  • Sexual promiscuity, early initiation of sexual activity, STDs
  • Higher incidence of smoking
  • Hyper-vigilance
  • Hyper-arousal
  • Insomnia
  • Nightmares
  • Withdraw socially
  • Irritability, hostility
  • Guilt
  • Loneliness
  • Trouble in relationships
  • Trust issues
  • Experience flashbacks
  • Avoids triggering situations, places, people

Adults with childhood trauma-related PTSD may seek out dysfunctional relationships where past childhood experiences are recreated because that is what feels familiar to them. They may have such a low self-esteem as a result of unresolved trauma that they believe they do not deserve happiness. They may develop a serious substance use disorder as a means of self-medicating their emotional pain. Until the adult with childhood-related PTSD works through their emotional pain with a therapist the disorder will continue to infect their quality of life.

Treatment for Childhood Trauma PTSD

When initially seeking help for treating PTSD, the individual may select either outpatient treatment through a private physician or an outpatient mental health program, or a residential treatment program. Often this decision as to where to obtain treatment for PTSD will be determined by the severity of the symptoms, whether there is a co-occurring disorder such as depression or addiction, and personal resources.

In treatment for PTSD the individual will engage in psychotherapy. The type of psychotherapy utilized will depend on the features of the PTSD, so it may be psychodynamic therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, or exposure therapies, or a combination of these modalities. Therapy will likely involve both individual one-on-one sessions and group therapy sessions where the issues related to the PTSD can be discussed and shared with others.

In addition, some individuals may benefit from medication, such as antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications. Holistic activities are helpful as well, assisting with stress-reduction and relaxation.

Elevation Behavioral Health Provides Residential Treatment for PTSD

Elevation Behavioral Health is a residential mental health center in Los Angeles, California that offers intensive treatment for adult survivors of childhood PTSD. The comprehensive program allows individuals struggling with trauma maladaptation to examine the pain sources and process the disturbing childhood events under the expert care of our compassionate psychiatric staff. Treatment includes intensive psychotherapy, group therapy, holistic and experiential activities, and medication management if applicable. For more information about our treatment program for childhood trauma PTSD, please connect with Elevation Behavioral Health today at (888) 561-0868.

symptoms of severe ptsd

Anyone who has suffered through a traumatic event knows the lasting impact it can have on your mental state and your daily life. When a trauma occurs, such as the sudden death of a loved one, a serious accident, physical or sexual assault, living through a natural disaster, or a trauma related to combat, it imprints deeply on the memory and the soul. While most people will eventually process the painful emotions and move forward, others may remain stuck in the distressing memories and pain of the trauma.

As a result, some of these individuals may find themselves turning to alcohol or drugs to help them relieve the emotional pain, depression, and anxiety that they live with. Some may find that they struggle to function at work or struggle socially due to the lingering effects of the trauma. These individuals are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Thankfully, there are highly effect treatment strategies that can help manage the symptoms of severe PTSD.

About Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

PTSD is a mental health disorder within the anxiety disorders spectrum. It can result after experiencing or witnessing a deeply traumatizing event. After being exposed to the trauma, those with PTSD continue to experience troubling after effects for a period lasting more than a month afterward, or will experience the symptoms of PTSD as a delayed response, sometimes months later.

For many years, it was thought that PTSD only pertained to veterans who had experienced horrific events in combat, coming back emotionally scarred. While veterans have higher rates of PTSD, with rates ranging between 10-30% depending on the war itself, PTSD is an anxiety disorder than impacts about 8% of the population at large, according to the National Institute of Health.

Symptoms of Severe PTSD

Symptoms of severe PTSD generally include four categories:

  • Intrusive memories. Unwanted thoughts or memories of the trauma are experienced repeatedly thought flashbacks, vivid memories, or nightmares.
  • Avoidance. In order not to trigger the distressing emotions of a past trauma, someone with PTSD will avoid any people, situations, or places that might trigger the disturbing memories. They will avoid discussing the trauma as well.
  • Hyper-arousal. The individual will be jumpy, easily irritated, is quick to anger, easily frightened, has an exaggerated startle response, and may suffer from insomnia. Substance abuse may be used to self-medicate these anxiety symptoms.
  • Negative thoughts. People suffering from PTSD may display a sense of hopelessness and negativity in their demeanor, and talk down about themselves. They may exhibit negative emotions such as anger, guilt, shame, and fear. They may struggle with relationships.
  • PTSD and a Co-Occurring Substance Use Disorder

    A dual diagnosis is present when the PTSD, as a stand alone mental health disorder, is coexisting with a substance use disorder. The use of alcohol and benzodiazepines is a common method of self-medicating the distressing symptoms of severe PTSD. Unfortunately, as tolerance to the effects of the substance increase and consumption increases with it, addiction can develop. This only creates a more complicated treatment picture for individuals who are already struggling with PTSD.

    When a dual diagnosis exists, it is important to seek the professional help of a treatment provider that specializes in dual diagnosis. Both the PTSD and the substance use disorder should be treated simultaneously to effectively treat the individual and obtain a successful recovery result.

    How is Severe PTSD Treated?

    PTSD is treated with a combination of medication and psychotherapy. Antidepressants or anti-anxiety drugs can help mitigate the intensity of the PTSD symptoms. These drugs can ease the fight-or-flight response that is so common in PTSD as well as allow for more restful sleep. Antidepressants used to treat PTSD include Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, and Effexor. Anti-anxiety medications are from the benzodiazepine group of drugs and may include Ativan, Xanax, Klonopin, or Valium.

    Psychotherapy can be very effective in helping individuals with PTSD, especially cognitive processing therapy (CPT), cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), and prolonged exposure therapy. These types of therapy help the individual systematically process the traumatic event over a course of treatments while also working through the associated emotions and fears that are present.

    Adjunctive therapies have also proven effective in enhancing the effects of the psychotherapy. Eye movement desensitization reprocessing (EMDR) involves the individual following a moving object with their eyes while discussing the traumatic event is discussed and processed. Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is a brain stimulation technique that has demonstrated promising results for treating people with TMS. Some experiential therapies, such as equine therapy, mindfulness exercises, or guided meditation have also been helpful for those with PTSD.

    How Lifestyle Changes Can Help PTSD

    Lifestyle changes can also be effective in helping individuals with PTSD. Reducing stress by making a career change or moving on from a dysfunctional relationship can help with the anxiety symptoms. It is important to recognize what areas in one’s life are contributing to excessive stress or anxiety, and to make a change.

    Getting regular exercise, especially cardio workouts, can help reduce stress and induce relaxation and improved sleep quality. These might involve a brisk daily walk, hiking, a spin class, dance cardio workouts, jogging or running, swimming, or cycling.

    Practicing stress-reducing activities, such as taking yoga classes or enjoying massage therapy, can also help improve overall mood and wellness. Eating a nutritious diet is also important in PTSD recovery. Limiting caffeine, sugar, and starchy foods can help regulate blood sugar and jittery behaviors. Eating a diet rich in lean proteins, green leafy vegetables, whole grain breads and pasta, and nuts and seeds will provide the body and brain with essential nutrients for optimum mental health.

    Elevation Behavioral Health Provides Effective Treatment for PTSD

    Elevation Behavioral Health is a leading dual diagnosis and mental health treatment provider in Los Angeles, California. Elevation Behavioral Health is an inpatient, private treatment facility overlooking the beautiful Agoura Hills landscape. In this luxury, intimate setting, individuals with PTSD or a dual diagnosis will receive the most effective therapeutic interventions within a compassionate, nurturing environment. For more information about how Elevation Behavioral Health can help you overcome PTSD, please call us today at (888) 561-0868.