U.S. Mass Shootings, Trauma, and Mental Health
The survivors of the recent mass shooting in the U.S. have been through a terrible and traumatic event. We look at how trauma effects the mind and body and the resources available to treat them holistically.
Following the recent mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, debates in the media focus on whether the mental health of the shooter caused him to erupt in violence. What can’t be denied is that the mental health of the survivors of the incident will be affected in the weeks or years to come.
A traumatic event is an incident that causes physical, emotional, spiritual, or psychological harm. Trauma has a profound effect on a person’s well-being and can manifest in many different ways. Though often short-lived, if left unresolved, it can be debilitating to both mind and body. The Cabin Chiang Mai divides traumatic experiences into three categories. Big T, or Shock Trauma, is caused by a severely stressful event or physical abuse. Small t. Trauma usually results from fairly common but upsetting life events such as the divorce of parents, poverty or the death of a pet. Complex Trauma describes a type of wounding that could include both Big T and Small t Traumas. What makes them complex is that the events or experiences are repetitive, prolonged and cumulative.
Trauma on the Mind and Body
The mind and body are linked to deal with trauma simultaneously. When a person perceives a threat, the body enters into “fight or flight mode” and prepares for survival. Adrenaline and hormones, including dopamine, are released to soothe the mind. Common and normal first reactions in the brain include shock and denial. These emotions allow the mind to numb and detach so the full impact of the event is not felt right away.
In the body, blood sugar increases to provide energy, the digestive system shuts down and endorphins flood the body to counteract physical pain. As a result, dizziness, nausea, sweating and shaking can occur. After the threat passes, the body will calm down but the effects on a persons’ mind can continue. If the mind does not recover from the trauma, it will, in time, affect the body in physical ways which can lead to chronic pain, fatigue, digestive issues and disease.
Early Stage Stress Management for TraumaRecovery from trauma is a step by step process, it does not happen all at once. It can often be an emotional roller coaster or have a “3 steps forward, 2 steps back” rhythm to it. It can be a confusing and frightening time for survivors trying to find their bearings again. In the early stages of recovery from trauma, it is important to reach out to friends, family or counsellors for support.
Some early stress management practices for trauma include:
- Find a support group or counselor
- Write in a journal or diary
- Spend time with others
- Eat a balanced diet
- Draw or paint
Signs of Unresolved Trauma
If symptoms of trauma do not subside after a few weeks and are affecting a person’s daily life, school or work and personal relationships, they may have evolved into a disorder. Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is the most common disorder to develop and can manifest in hypervigilance, jumpiness, sleep disturbances and distress. These symptoms can be severe and some people may carry invisible psychological wounds for months or years. Depression and anxiety can also be experienced when an individual no longer feels safe in their environment.
Signs of unresolved trauma can include:
- Continued obsession with the traumatic event
- Serious problems at work or school
- Emotional outbursts
- Aggressive behavior
- Altered sleep
- Drug or alcohol abuse
PTSD and AddictionAbout 50-66 percent of those who suffer from PTSD also battle simultaneous addiction. Many medical experts believe that PTSD is a chemical disorder that alters the brain and body. The endorphins released during a traumatic event help to cope with the stress but when the event is over, the person’s body goes through an “endorphin withdrawal”. This withdrawal is similar to the withdrawal symptoms from drugs or alcohol. After a traumatic experience, the brain produces fewer endorphins and those suffering from PTSD may turn to alcohol or drugs to increase endorphin levels or to cope with depression or anxiety. After the alcohol or drug wears off, the underlying problems of the disorder can become magnified and the person turns again to substance abuse. This creates a vicious cycle that will likely require treatment to break free from.
Treating Trauma and Addiction TogetherBoth trauma and co-occurring trauma and addiction can be devastating but help is available. The Cabin Chiang Mai uses a holistic approach to heal mind and body for lasting recovery. Our highly trained experts incorporate EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing), CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), Trauma Release Exercise yoga (TRE), and counseling to help you reclaim your life.
Contact us and take the first step towards healing today.