Secondary Traumatic Stress
Most people are familiar with the term post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and they know it typically comes from directly experiencing traumatic and/or life threatening events such as abuse, combat, natural disasters, medical emergencies, accidents, or any number of events that fall outside the scope of our normal lives. Secondary Traumatic Stress (STS), also referred to as vicarious trauma, comes from indirect exposure to other people’s traumatic experiences. This is common to first responders who interact with the trauma as they try to help people, therapists who help people process through painful and upsetting experiences they have had, and even everyday people, supportive family members, or friends. One subtle venue that nearly everyone is exposed to is the media.
Can the Media Cause STS?
There is no shortage of graphic, gruesome, and difficult images and stories that we see and hear about in movies and through everyday news reports. Where secondary traumatic stress comes in is from the repeated and continuous exposure to these troubling images and stories over a period of time. In effect, there is a cumulative impact on people. This secondary traumatic stress can start to impair your functioning and affect your mental health and emotional well-being.
Symptoms of Secondary Traumatic Stress
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Many people have endured difficult, painful, and traumatic events or experiences in their lives. For many the mental and emotional fallout is long lasting and dramatically interferes with normal functioning. EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is a specialized type of psychotherapy that helps people heal from these experiences in a fraction of the time of traditional therapy. Research studies find that 72% of combat vets and people with multiple or repeated trauma no longer met criteria for PTSD after just 6-12 sessions of EMDR. Over the past 25 years there are millions of people who have received successful treatment with EMDR.
EMDR is generally an eight-phase treatment process. During the intake, your clinician gets a thorough history and begins to identify traumatic memories to target. Prior to tackling any trauma, your therapist will help work on teaching new strategies and methods for coping with emotional and mental stress. When ready to tackle some of the traumatic memories, some parts of the session will include eye movements (or some bilateral stimulation). Experts believe this activity is connected to biological mechanisms in the REM sleep that facilitate the processing of disturbing memories and feelings. Many people feel EMDR helps them get “unstuck” so they can heal anread more
What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can develop after exposure to any number of traumatic events that can happen to people. Some common types of traumatic events that can result in PTSD include military combat, physical or sexual assaults, accidents, or natural disasters such as a tornado, hurricanes, etc. Although PTSD has likely existed since humankind has been involved in traumatic situations, PTSD has only been recognized as a diagnosis since 1980. It should be noted that not everyone who experiences a traumatic event will end up with PTSD. Many people endure and recover from difficult life situations just fine. Others develop less severe problems such as depression or anxiety problems. Traumatic events that are enduring (military combat) or recurring (physical or sexual abuse) increase the likelihood of developing PTSD.
Symptoms & Features
A thorough mental health diagnostic evaluation should be sought if you suspect you might have PTSD. The diagnosis of PTSD can be difficult and complex. In response to a traumatic experience where real or perceived life-threatening situations have occurred, people experience some of the following symptoms. There are re-experiencing symptoms that include: 1) intrusive thoughts or images, 2) feeling like the event is recurring or reliving it, 3) dreams or nig read more