In recent years, research in neuroscience has helped us to understand how trauma can impact us psychologically, physiologically, emotionally and socially. There is an epidemic of personal and social issues including addiction, chronic disease, anxiety, depression, PTSD and more whose roots can all be traced to trauma, adverse childhood experiences, chronic stress, and ultimately autonomic nervous system dysregulation. Trauma is an experience, not an event and what happens inside us as a result of what happens to us. When we experience trauma, our autonomic nervous system may dysregulate and cause physical symptoms such as digestive disorders, autoimmune disease, chronic fatigue, chronic pain, migraines and emotional/behavioral symptoms such as anxiety, depression, addiction and challenging relationships.
Our wonderful colleague, Heather Berberet, Psy.D, has contributed her expertise on the psychological and biological effects of trauma.
Helping people heal from trauma is something the medicine and psychology have struggled with for over 100 years. The modern era first recognized the symptoms of trauma after soldiers returned from WWI, labeling it “Shell Shock,” because the symptoms seemed to be caused by the shock of bombs exploding near soldiers. These symptoms included tremors, headaches, confusion, nightmares, extreme fatigue, and angry outburst. Because many of the symptoms were behavioral and doctors were unable to find a physical cause for them, it was classified as a psychological disorder. The syndrome was re-named Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (or PTSD) after the Vietnam war.
In the last fifty years, science has come to understand that PTSD stems, not from the bad event itself, but how the individual processes the event. Some scientists suspect the it’s the inability to protect yourself from the traumatic event that causes PTSD.
The most cutting-edge approaches to trauma treatment understand PTSD as both a psychological and biological disorder. A new video produced by The Trauma Foundation does an amazing job of explaining these new insights into PTSD as a problem of the Autonomic Nervous System (that’s the part of our nervous system that manages our “Fight and Flight” and “Rest and Digest” systems).
Organic Intelligence®, one of these cutting-edge approaches, is a method of treating PTSD that teaches patients how to use their psychology to impact their biology. By understanding how our Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) works, and by developing skills to support normal ANS functioning, we can treat PTSD symptoms and heal from the experiences that caused them.