How Trauma Leads to Depression and Anxiety
A few years ago years ago after the Oklahoma City bombing, Hurricane Katrina and Sandy, I contributed to an article for Everydayhealth.com discussing Trauma, Post Traumatic Stress and its impact on Mental Health. This week I wrote an update to this article mentioning more recent events in the past 2-3 years, such as the Boston Marathon shootings in which three people were killed and hundreds injured, murder of a teacher outside a preschool by her husband on March 11, 2014. Not to mention unspeakable executions by ISIS. In doing research for this article, I was shocked about how many violent acts of random violence have occurred in the past two years in schools and colleges all over the country.
Actually this week a patient of mine in marriage counseling, came to the session and announced that she is not really here, there was a “crazy” incident that occurred at her workplace that day. To be sure, she works in a state of the art security building in Midtown Manhattan. Apparently a coworker’s husband was able to get past security and entered their office with a knife. He suspected that his wife was having an affair with a co-worker and intended obviously to use the knife on both of them. He first went after the male and basically was eventually wrestled down by other men in the office who were able to get the knife from him. Security was called and he was luckily arrested. My patient was in a state of shock and was able to talk a little about her fear and what would have happened if he had a gun….
I think that being a New Yorker and having lived through 9/11 has forever changed our nervous systems. Many of us are more on guard and are looking for potential dangerous people or elements in our environment. Fortunately nothing of this magnitude has happened in this city or country since but oftentimes, we all think it will, may be happen again and it certainly has in other parts of the world.
What makes trauma what it is, is the element of it being completely unexpected and out of nowhere. It shakes our basic assumptions about our lives, order and predictability and makes us different. There is a sense of loss that occurs which leads to depression as underlying issues in depression are often loss, disappointment and helplessness. All these feelings are experienced in trauma as the shock lifts. Another related feeling is that of fear, a pervasive fear of this or something like this happening again and the need to be worried and hyper vigilant all the time. There is a sense of life not being safe.
These feelings are common and normal after traumatic experience. However, if they persist, one should seek professional help. Psychotherapy such as EMDR ( Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing) is especially effective in clearing trauma so we do not have to live in the grip of sadness and fear.
Children may also experience these symptoms. There are therapists who specialize in treating children after trauma and they use same approaches, such as EMDR. It is important for parents to become educated about this and take an