Trauma & PTSD

Trauma takes many forms, including abuse, neglect, natural disasters, or other events that leave lasting painful effects. While it can be helpful to have these objective events as a reference, trauma is more closely related to your subjective experiences and responses to events.  One definition for trauma is the experience of extreme distress in the context of excessively intense fear, helplessness, feeling over-powered or out of control. It is traumatic to be in overwhelming states and to be alone. In line with our general approach to therapy at Chrysalis, we believe that treatment for trauma-related difficulties is about more than the reduction of symptoms. Our work together presents an opportunity to develop resilience and post-traumatic growth. Our doctors have considerable training and experience working with individuals who have experienced various forms of trauma in their lives.

We diagnose Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) when people experience intrusions (e.g., nightmares or flashbacks), avoidance (e.g., of thoughts or external places that are reminders), negative alterations in cognition or mood (e.g., negative mood, self-blame, inability to recall aspects of the trauma), and dysregulation of arousal and reactivity (e.g., high startle reflex, risky behavior, difficulty sleeping) to past events. An additional criterion of dissociation (e.g., not feeling like oneself, losing time, or feeling that things are unreal) has been added as another form of PTSD. Research estimates that between 7-8% of people will experience PTSD in their lifetime.

While PTSD is one form of psychological distress that results from exposure to trauma, it can be helpful to understand that experiencing trauma makes all other psychological disorders more likely. Sometimes people who have experienced trauma don’t meet all the symptoms of another psychological disorder, but they might still experience increased problems in relationships and internal thought processes.

Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD), also sometimes referred to as Disorders of Extreme Stress Not Otherwise Specified (DESNOS), is when trauma has been repeated and prolonged, especially during childhood and in the context of attachment relationships.  Resulting symptoms extend beyond traditional PTSD symptoms.  These include disruptions to how consistent someone’s sense of self is or a more chronic sense of self that is bad or damaged.  The impact of prolonged trauma in childhood also increases the likelihood of various biological, physiological, and somatic disorders.   While dissociation has been added to PTSD, it is often a component of C-PTSD and can become a common way in which someone responds to even mild forms of distress.  The developmental model adopted by Chrysalis doctors is especially suited to understand and treat C-PTSD.

Your experience of trauma might be very different from that of the next person.  Something terrible and unbearable has taken place, be it a single event or the long and chronic path of suffering you’ve been down.  You might feel as though something has been taken from who you once were, or as though something essential was never developed.  This can leave you feeling the presence of something awful inside of you, or the haunting sense of something missing or lacking.  At times, you might feel a return of overwhelming states that you will do anything to escape, and at other times, you might feel a loss of feeling alive or engaged in your life and relationships.  To add insult to the injury of your trauma, it’s often not the event(s) that are the most upsetting but the enduring way the memories and experiences of trauma continue to traumatize you by intruding and impacting your life outside of your control.  We can never erase our experiences but we can change our relationship to them.  Whether you experience your trauma as a life-changing event to be overcome or something more fundamentally intertwined with who you are and have become, we are committed to joining the journey with you to a new existence.