Marissa Wood spoke to the Boonville Rotary Club on Monday regarding traumatic stress. Wood, who is a therapist with Lawrence, Oliver & Associates, gave insights on how to best deal with the issues when someone has gone through a terrible accident or stressful point in their life.
“Traumatic stress is extreme stress that overwhelms an individual's ability to cope. Most important component is not what the person experienced, but how they experienced it,” Wood stated. “Age is a significant factor. Availability of the right kind of support after the event is a factor such as the Joplin Tornado. It can be repeated such as bullying in a school; chronic poverty or fear in childhood. Any trauma can result in body and brain changes.If there is no successful resolution (body resolution and mind resolution) and no strong support system can cause the brain and body to act as if the trauma is still happening.”
Signs that someone is being effected can be seen with changes in a person’s lifestyle.
“Nightmares, flashbacks, which can cause sleep problems, memory problems, irritability, anxiety, etc. results in coping such as substance use, overworking and withdrawal,” she stated. “Multiple episode traumas can cause chronic increases in levels of adrenalin and cortisol. The
brain and body is then wired and ready to defend itself because the brain has ‘adapted’ to the idea that stress happens regularly and without warning - so the brain makes sure the body is always ready. This looks like chronic hyperarousal and anxiety. This is an individual in a constant state of fight or flight.”
She explained that people may looks like they are angry, are irritability, have sleep problems, poor concentration, are unable to sit still and suffer from from poor concentration.
“If the brain has become exhausted with this state, the body might be in freeze - which looks like
apathy and depression. Both types of traumas result in nervous system dysregulation. We believe that n.s. dysregulation can account for many, many, many presenting problems for children and adults,” she added.
Wood warned against treating symptoms, but instead of going to the root of the problem.
“Unrecognized trauma is the largest missed diagnosis that we see after 30 years. Present with
behavior problems, cutting behaviors, substance use, depression and chronic anxiety. If all you do is treat those symptoms, you have missed the cause and the symptoms and the other
symptoms, will return. If you consider symptoms as the brain's way of coping with unrecognized trauma, then you start with the question, ‘what happened to this person that might make these symptoms make sense?" Wood asked.
Wood went on to discuss stress survivors, individuals who have risen above the trauma in their lives.
“Because there are so many stressors in the world and so much violence most clients of services in the mental health system are trauma survivors. Because individuals are adaptive and find ways of coping with ‘symptoms’ that they may not even see as symptoms trauma survivors may carry any psychiatric diagnosis and oftentimes carry many diagnoses. Because trauma does not discriminate, survivors are both genders, all ages, all races, all classes,
all religions and all nationalities,” Wood stated.
Wood added that assessing for trauma is a skill.
“Treating Trauma is a specialty. Most mental health providers are not adequately trained in either assessing or treating trauma. If you don't treat it correctly, the symptoms will either stay or shift to something different. In children, a quick way to identify a problem that might be related to
traumatic stress to remember the word SCARED,” she ended.
S - Sudden changes in sleep habits
C - Crying
A - Afraid of things not feared before
R - Refuses activities once enjoyed
E - Easily startled
D - Displays disruptive, violent, bullying or aggressive behaviors.
Lawrence, Oliver & Associates is starting a nonprofit to train first responders, police, EMS, teachers, etc. on the new information they've learned about how to help prevent trauma from turning into post-traumatic stress disorder.
Wood was a counselor at Valley Hope until about four months ago. She now lives in Rocheport and is the daughter of Greg and Danita Wood, who own and operate Missouri Life Magazine.