I just discovered Dr Will Van Derveer today (thanks to Jayson Gaddis). He is a psychiatrist who practices in Boulder and Denver. He works with trauma and the various ways it intersects with other diagnoses and in this video and the second part, he talks about stress, trauma, bipolar, gluten intolerance, gut and mental health, coffee, sleep, medication and psychotherapy.
From his website The Love and Trauma Center:
The way we approach stress and trauma is more precise than you may have considered in the past. We look at stress and trauma through the lens of the nervous system, as a nervous system phenomenon, and therefore primarily body oriented. Stress is the word we use when fight or flight (sympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system) reactions are activated. We use the word trauma to describe what happens when the nervous system becomes overwhelmed, and we perceive that fighting or fleeing is not enough to solve the threat. At this point the parasympathetic, or numbing and depressive, branch of our system turns on. It is essentially the same response a mouse has when being batted around by a cat. We say that a mammal in this state is “playing dead” but it is an automatic survival response. Each of these nervous system states has its own array of symptoms that even though they originate in the body, they affect emotions and thoughts as well.
Stress symptoms include:
Increased heart rate, sweating, feeling hot, having muscle contractions, tight jaw, or twitches in your limbs, feeling uncomfortable
Heightened sense of altertness
Emotions such as excitement, fear, anxiety, annoyance or anger
Feeling fidgety, restless, or manic
Trauma symptoms include:
Slower heart rate, feeling cold, or feeling suddenly sleepy
Vision changes such as a narrowing in your visual field, or noticing that things look fuzzy or foggy.
Nausea or heaviness
Feeling depressed, lethargic, blank, numb, detached or dissociated
Trauma resolution requires allowing our body to move through a sequence of nervous system responses, in a safe and trust-filled environment. We now know that treating trauma solely with cognitive (talk) based therapies is NOT effective. We practice a type of trauma therapy called Containment and Resolution, (CAR) which allows your body to sequentially release its defensive responses to trauma triggers. CAR belongs to the family of evidence based exposure therapies like EMDR, Prolonged Exposure, and most similarly, Peter Levine’s Somatic Experiencing. which all also seek to target trauma in your nervous system. It is distinct from other exposure therapies such as EMDR which do not share CAR’s focus on completing defensive and nervous system responses in the body, and seems to add specific benefit when working with dissociative trauma responses.
Questions on Commonly Overlooked Causes of Trauma
How many surgeries have you had requiring general anesthesia?
Have you ever been knocked unconscious in an accident or injury situation?
Have you been assaulted?
Did you grow up in a household where there was reason to fear certain people or certain times?
Have you had severe pain or illness during periods of your life?
Were you left alone for periods of time when you were very young?