As I sit down to draft this, the first bands of Tropical Storm/Hurricane Idalia blows closer to our state. I have spoken with many clients, colleagues and friends this week – all expressing similar fears and concerns after the heartbreaking and profound impact that Ian had on our community last year.
All of us respond differently to traumatic situations. Some people are able to shake it off and move forward without any impact on their psychological functioning. Others, however, may not realize the impact the event left on them until faced with a similar situation. While other folks might be acutely aware of their distress in response to the event.
This is the first major storm since Ian. And it may be a triggering event for some. There are some signs to look for that might indicate you or someone you love is experiencing symptoms of post-traumatic stress.
- Hypervigilance. A an increased level of attention and focus on protecting oneself. Yes, we expect people to prepare for a storm. This would be an excessive amount of preparation and need to control one’s external environment.
- Sleep disruption. An inability to fall or remain asleep. It may include nightmares of the distressing event.
- Irritability and Anger. This is due to the person’s brain and body experiencing the past event as if it is happening again in this moment. Past is present. When they respond in a snappy or uncharacteristically hostile way, it is likely not about the present moment or circumstance at all.
- Overly Emotional. Easily moved to tears or overwhelmed by things that typically wouldn’t be upsetting. This often occurs with children who don’t have the words or ability to understand why they are feeling the way they are feeling.
- Panic Attacks. Panic may often feel as if the world is closing in on the person. They may feel like their body is on fire, they may sweat profusely and even feel nauseated. People often confuse a panic attack with a heart attack because their heart is beating so intensely. This can feel surreal, disorienting and extremely difficult to breathe or catch one’s breath.
- Numbing Out. For some people, their body tries to protect them from overwhelm by going numb. They mean seem emotionally checked out, distant, and lack responsiveness. Some people may turn to substances and behaviors that aide in emotional numbing.
- Reenactment in Play for children. Children will often recreate and replay out traumatic events in their imaginative play and expressive art.
There are specific treatment approaches, such as Eye-Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) and expressive arts therapies, to help individuals overcomes and adaptively integrate these experiences. We offer both and will tailor the process to meet each individual’s unique needs. There are ways of integrating EMDR with movement, play, and art to make this accessible to children.
If you or someone you care about is struggling with the some or all of the above, we are hear to help you through it. Call us 239-297-7099 to see if we might be a good fit. If we can’t help, we will connect you to therapists in our community who can.