Fort Collins Psychiatrist
Fort Collins Psychiatry

PTSD and Trauma

Trauma experiences and presentations are varying and can be related to a multitude of things. Emotional and psychological trauma often involves a threat to life or safety. Any situation that leaves you feeling overwhelmed and alone can be traumatic, even if it doesn't involve physical harm. The subjective awareness that we have related to any event impacts that level of trauma that we experience. The more frightened and helpless we feel, the more likely we are to be traumatized. Stressful events are most likely to be traumatic if:

  • It happened unexpectedly.
  • You were unprepared for it.
  • You felt powerless to prevent it.
  • It happened repeatedly.
  • Someone was intentionally cruel.
  • It happened in childhood.

Emotional and psychological trauma can be related to single events, such as a motor vehicle accident, surviving a natural disaster, or a life-threatening event. Trauma can also be related to ongoing relentless stress, such a living in a high crime area, long-term exposure to violence or danger, or struggling with a serious medical condition. Secondary trauma can also develop from witnessing similar events or being a support person to a family member or friend who has experienced trauma first hand.

After experiencing traumatic events, it is common that we struggle with emotions, memories or feelings of uneasiness that are difficult to manage. At times, we may experience periods of numbness, feeling disconnected and have difficulty trusting others.

Medications: serotonin reuptake inhibitors have long been shown to be helpful but recent trials of prazosin have excellent promise in reducing nightmares and flashbacks effectively. Propranolol can be effective in reducing overall anxiety. Medications are effective only in the setting of a collaborative treatment with psychotherapy. In terms of naturally occurring treatments; natural GABA is a non-addictive method of reducing anxiety, and 5HTP may be useful in reducing anxiety symptoms on a daily use basis. For sleep difficulties prazosin and melatonin (naturally occurring) are both effective.

Cognitive-Behavioral therapy: Basically, this modality of treatment helps us process and evaluate thoughts and feelings about trauma and our current situations. We are able to develop a more complete understanding or our past and assess our current perceptions in a manner that contribute to an accurate and rational understanding or present situations. This helps us to appreciate the ability that we have to positively impact our relationships and experiences.

Do you suffer from trauma?