Trauma Therapy: When Emotional Pain from Your Childhood Won’t Let Go
Everyone has some kind of emotional pain in their lives. For those who experienced trauma in childhood, that pain can be difficult to let go. This is especially true if the trauma has not been addressed in therapy, as emotional pain can continue well into adulthood. However, there are ways that the trauma can be addressed and resolved.
There Are Lots of Ways to Develop Emotional Pain
There are many ways that one can develop trauma from emotionally painful experiences. With children, trauma may result and linger due to physical or sexual abuse. However, there are a variety of other ways that someone can develop trauma too. For instance:
- The death of a loved one, such as from an accident or illness.
- Witnessing or being the subject of a violent act.
- Witnessing or being subjected to an accident (such as a car wreck).
- Experiencing a loss, such as through adoption or divorce.
- Being neglected as a child.
Effects of Childhood Trauma on the Brain
According to Dr. George Northoff in Psychology Today, people who experienced childhood trauma were more likely to experience higher degrees of entropy in the brain as adults. Entropy measures the brain’s activity when at a resting state. The trauma becomes “encoded” into the structure of the brain. This means that the traumatic experiences cannot be simply “forgotten.” They must be processed by the individual through a therapeutic process.
Trauma and Substance Abuse
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) conducted studies on those who have experienced trauma in childhood. Their findings show that people who have had childhood trauma are more likely to abuse substances such as alcohol or drugs as adults. Some of the findings included the following:
- 70% of women who are being treated for alcohol abuse experienced sexual abuse as a child. Men may suffer less from sexual abuse as children, but report a higher rate of physical abuse.
- Men were more likely to have participated in “suicidal drinking” binges.
- Men who were abused as children and seek out substance abuse treatment as adults, are more likely to relapse.
- People who struggled with alcohol use and endured childhood trauma were more likely to struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as adults.
What this means for those struggling with childhood trauma is that the use of drugs or alcohol can make things worse, and needs to be addressed in order to also address trauma.
How Can I Find Relief From Trauma?
Experiencing pain of childhood trauma does not mean that you must live with it for the rest of your life. The Veterans Administration uses the following trauma therapy to treat patients. These include:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) sessions to process past experiences and to better understand why you have the trauma.
- Medication, in consultation with your therapist and physician, can aid in the reduction of symptoms, but is most effective when combined with other techniques such as CBT.
- Eye-Movement-Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), where you use an external stimulus to reprocess past events and memories.
- Group therapy with others who have been through traumatic events.
- Exposure to sights, sounds, smells, and other stimuli that may trigger an emotional reaction and can then be processed by you and your therapist. This is also called Exposure Therapy.
Emotional pain from your childhood does not have to haunt you as an adult. By workingwith a therapist, you can identify your past trauma, address coexisting symptoms such as substance abuse, and use therapeutic techniques to process and resolve your trauma. You can’t make the trauma go away, but you can let go of the emotional pain from childhood that results.