The Prevalence Of Trauma In Society
In this blog, The Prevalence Of Trauma In Society, we will take a sobering look at the severe global impact of trauma on global public health. We will skim-read some of the research and what it means for us. Then we will soak up the good news. Trauma and its downstream effects may be a major problem, but the knowledge and tools for effective care, healing and treatment already exist.
Trauma has been referred to as a “silent epidemic” because it affects a truly vast number of individuals, yet it is often unseen and unacknowledged. Trauma can come in many forms, such as physical, emotional, sexual, or verbal abuse, neglect, accidents, natural disasters, and combat situations; These traumas can have a profound impact on an individual’s mental and physical health and ability to function in daily life. Many of these instances result in full-blown PTSD.
Trauma with a small ‘t’ is often overlooked. While the major life traumas that arise through dramatic circumstances are pretty self-explanatory, the trauma that can arise from a toxic relationship, the loss of a loved one or workplace bullying is more subtle but no less important to acknowledge. Trauma could be defined as being the result of any stress-inducing circumstance where the event exceeds our ability to cope in the moment, resulting in an overload of the nervous system’s fight/flight/freeze response. This can happen in a single event or over a period of time; both mechanisms are valid.
The impact of trauma on global society is far-reaching. It can be seen in various aspects of an individual’s life, including mental and physical health, relationships, and economic status. Studies have shown that individuals who have experienced trauma are at an increased risk for various mental health disorders, including depression, anxiety and other mental health issues. They also have a higher risk for chronic illnesses such as heart disease and diabetes and for engaging in substance abuse and other risky behaviours.
Trauma also often has a significant impact on an individual’s ability to function in daily life, including their ability to work, attend school, and maintain relationships. The economic burden of trauma is significant, including increased healthcare costs and lost productivity. It also has a considerable impact on the overall well-being of society and its economy.
Furthermore, trauma is often intergenerational, meaning that the effects of trauma can be passed down from one generation to another, perpetuating the cycle of trauma and its impact on global society. The emerging field of ‘epigenetics’ is highlighting that trauma is even stored in our DNA. This means the intergenerational propagation of trauma is beginning to appear as being virtually by way of nature and nurture.
It is important to note that trauma is not selective. It affects people from all walks of life, regardless of socioeconomic status, race, gender, and culture. Nor is it limited to war veterans and victims of abuse. It is not limited to any one group of people, and it is a global problem that requires a global solution.
The struggle of those suffering from trauma is often invisible, and they may feel isolated and alone in their pain. They may feel ashamed or guilty for what has happened to them and may be reluctant to seek help. It’s important to understand that trauma is not a weakness but rather a normal response to an abnormal event and that healing and recovery are possible. As a society, we have an extreme tendency to misdiagnose trauma according to its symptoms. An excellent example of this is the ‘drug addict’ who is fundamentally ‘self medicating’ their trauma symptoms. Yet, we diagnose them with the often judgemental and always limited ‘addict’ label rather than acknowledging that their addiction is actually a very real symptom of their often substantial trauma.
To address the silent epidemic of trauma, it is important to raise awareness of the long-term effects of trauma and the importance of addressing it in order to promote healing and recovery. This includes providing support and resources for individuals who have experienced trauma, promoting ‘trauma-informed care’, and investing in research to figure out how we are going to treat trauma effectively at a systemic level. It also includes providing education and training for individuals and organisations to better understand and address trauma and create a safe and supportive environment for healing.
Here is a list of 8 vitally important research articles in the field of trauma and PTSD in relation to an optimistic look at the prevalence of trauma in society. With each, I have offered a small insight into their significance in understanding the impact of trauma on global human society:
1 – “The epidemiology of PTSD” by Breslau, N., et al. (1991)
This study was one of the first to examine the prevalence of PTSD in the general population and found that the disorder was more common than previously thought. It also highlighted the importance of addressing trauma in order to prevent the development of PTSD. Acknowledging the prevalence of trauma and PTSD is a vital first step toward a future where we treat trauma and PTSD effectively at a systemic level. Much as we already do with many other health issues.
2 – “The long-term health consequences of childhood abuse” by Felitti, V.J., et al. (1998)
This study found a strong link between childhood trauma and a variety of health problems in adulthood, including heart disease, diabetes, and mental health disorders, which helped to raise awareness of the long-term effects of childhood trauma. Studies like this highlight what most of the public still doesn’t fully understand about trauma and PTSD; they have a profound impact on physical health as well as mental health. It is concerning that studies like this are now 25 years old and still have done little to alter how medicine approaches these issues.
3 – “Predictors and subgroup differences in posttraumatic stress disorder symptom course” by Schnurr, P.P., et al. (2003).
This study found that individuals who have experienced trauma are at increased risk for a wide range of health problems, including heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. Another study that highlights the deeply physical impact of trauma on the physical health of sufferers. The bad news is that the cardiovascular impact of chronic trauma is just the tip of the iceberg. The good news is that as we start to wake up to these issues and utilise the many effective treatments for trauma that already exist, we can expect to be able to reduce the physical toll that traumatic events have on our long-term health.
4 – “Economic burden of PTSD in the United States: A systematic review” by Kimerling, R., et al. (2010)
This study found that PTSD is associated with a significant economic burden, including increased healthcare costs and lost productivity, emphasising the need for effective treatments for PTSD. Assessing the economic burden of trauma and PTSD is not exactly the most touchy-feely or empathic type of insight into all this human suffering. Yet money talks, and if the acknowledgment of the fiscal impact of trauma speeds up the process of us managing it more effectively, so be it.
5 – “Trauma exposure and posttraumatic stress disorder in substance abuse inpatients” by Elman, I., et al. (2010)
This study found a strong link between trauma and substance abuse, highlighting the need to address trauma in substance abuse treatment. Addiction has long been treated as if it was a disease, condition or character trait all of its own. A character defect at best, a terrible affliction at worst. ‘Once ‘an addict’ always ‘an addict ‘is the standard refrain. Research like this should seriously call into question how and why addiction comes about, at least in some cases. I would argue that addiction is a virtually universal form of human stress response.
6 – “The global prevalence of PTSD: A systematic review and meta-analysis” by Yehuda, R., et al. (2012) –
This study found that PTSD is a global problem, affecting individuals in a wide range of countries and cultures and emphasising the need for PTSD prevention and treatment to be a global priority. After many years of research, I have personally concluded that trauma is a vast and ‘unseen’ epidemic, in that it shows up in countless ways, but we don’t connect those issues with the trauma. Full-blown PTSD is only a part of this, and yet in and of itself, research like this has found that it is a substantial public health issue.
7 – “Trauma and addiction: A review” by Herrell, J.M., et al. (2015)
This study reviews the literature on the link between trauma and addiction, highlighting the importance of addressing trauma in addiction treatment. Yet another paper that has confirmed the profound connection between trauma and addiction. Interestingly we often use the term addiction to refer to substances like medications, illicit drugs and alcohol. Yet food addiction is probably the world’s most common form of addiction and is often omitted from this conversation. It would be hard to calculate the volume of ‘trauma co-morbidity society struggles with if it transpired that our food addictions were also informed by trauma.
8 – “The impact of trauma on refugee mental health: A review” by Steel, Z., et al. (2016)
This study reviewed the literature on the impact of trauma on the mental health of refugees, highlighting the need for trauma-informed care. Studies like this affirm a clear causal connection between human mental health and trauma. Thankfully most of us can’t even imagine the level of stress and trauma involved in finding that our homeland is no longer a safe place to be. Let alone for it to be so bad that you uproot yourself and your family and start from scratch in an alien culture. Refugees and war veterans are sadly a great repository of trauma and human suffering. And learning to care for them better will be one of the vital stepping stones towards trauma-informed healthcare for all!
Cause For Hope
The discovery of EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) and the rediscovery of psychedelic-assisted therapy have brought hope to individuals suffering from trauma and PTSD. These therapies have been shown in research to be effective in treating the symptoms of trauma and PTSD, and they offer new and innovative ways to address the long-term effects of trauma.
EMDR, which was developed in the 1980s by Francine Shapiro, is a form of psychotherapy that uses eye movements, sounds or taps to help individuals process traumatic memories and reduce the symptoms of PTSD. Research has shown that EMDR is effective in treating trauma and PTSD. In a study published in the Journal of Traumatic Stress, EMDR was found to be more effective than prolonged exposure therapy in treating PTSD symptoms. It is now considered a first-line treatment for PTSD by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the American Psychiatric Association (APA).
Similarly, psychedelic-assisted therapy, which involves the use of psychedelic substances such as psilocybin and MDMA to help individuals process traumatic memories and reduce the symptoms of PTSD, has shown promising results in recent studies. A recent study by Imperial College London found that two-thirds of participants with treatment-resistant PTSD who received psilocybin therapy no longer met the criteria for PTSD after just two sessions. Another study at the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) found that after two sessions of MDMA-assisted therapy, 68% of participants no longer met the criteria for PTSD.
Both EMDR and psychedelic-assisted therapy offer a new and innovative approach to treating trauma and PTSD, and they provide hope to individuals who have struggled with traditional forms of therapy. They not only address the emotional and psychological aspects of trauma but also the physical, spiritual, and relational aspects of it. These therapies also provide a new way to approach the therapeutic process by allowing the individual to process their traumatic experiences in a safe and controlled environment, which can lead to long-term healing and recovery.
It’s important to note that these therapies are not a one-size-fits-all solution, and they should be used in conjunction with other forms of therapy and support. They should also be used under a qualified therapist’s guidance and in a safe and controlled environment.
The hope that these therapies bring to individuals suffering from trauma and PTSD is not only in their effectiveness but also in the fact that they offer new ways of approaching the issue and new hope for healing. They recognise the complexity of trauma, and they offer a holistic approach that addresses not only the emotional and psychological aspects of trauma but also the physical, spiritual, and relational aspects of it.
It’s important to note that research in this field is ongoing and more research is needed to fully understand the long-term effects of these therapies. However, the research that has been done so far provides a promising outlook for individuals suffering from trauma and PTSD. These therapies can potentially change how we approach and treat trauma, offering new hope for healing and recovery.
In conclusion, the discovery of EMDR and the rediscovery of psychedelic-assisted therapies and microdosing offer hope for individuals suffering from trauma and PTSD. These therapies have been shown to be effective in treating the symptoms of trauma and PTSD and offer new and innovative ways to address the long-term effects of trauma. They offer a holistic approach to treating trauma and should be used under the guidance of a qualified therapist in a safe and controlled environment. The hope that these therapies bring is not only in their effectiveness but also in their ability to change the way we approach and treat trauma, offering new hope for healing and recovery.
As a species, we have already conquered many frontiers in health. The single most significant remaining frontier in the health of our species may be trauma, in part because of its direct impact on health; but also because of its long list of downstream effects.