Hyper-Vigilant Symptoms from Trauma Can Be Eradicated! By Todd Harvey
We naturally heal from trauma and when those mechanisms do not work, EMDR can help activate our our natural healing process to help clear painful symptoms of hyper-vigilance.
When a traumatic event happens, the primitive part of the brain that protects us from danger (attacking lions, etc) is triggered. This puts us into fight, flight, or freeze mode. We get an important surge of energy and a hyper-vigilance which is necessary to escape the dangerous situation.
Many people can experience a very stressful event (rape, robbery, car accident, etc) and after several weeks of talking with friends, praying, journaling, and dreaming; their brain is able to self-soothe and recognize that the threat is no longer there.
Dreams are an important part of our automatic self-healing. During the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) portion of sleep, the left half of the brain (rational) is able to communicate with and self-soothe the right half of the brain (emotional) part of the brain.
In any given night, we have a similar dream 8 to 15 times a night. The first dream starts with a problem and by the last dream; there is a solution to the problem. Through our dreams, we create scenarios that allow us to master experiences that we did not have the chance to master in real life. During this process our brains sends a signal to the amygdala that we are safe now. When this happens, we are able to go back to normal. We still are able to recall disturbing memories of what happened, but we are not experiencing our everyday life as if the event is continuing to happen in the present.
However, for some, the traumatic event is so threatening that a part of our brain stays stuck in the trauma (creating PTSD). Since our brain is telling us that the threat is still there, our nervous system responds by keeping us in a hyper-vigilant state. This can be extremely painful for us, our partners, co-workers and friends.
EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing) is a technique that is empirically validated. It is extremely helpful in eradicating trauma symptoms by processing the trauma in a way that there nervous system goes back to normal. With EMDR, we replicate REM by creating bi-lateral stimulation by having the client’s eyes follow the therapist’s fingers as he waves them back and forth. We do this while talking about the trauma in a structured manner in a safe place. Much like in a dream, the EMDR session often progresses from the client having a strong sense of overwhelm to being able to talk about the trauma without feeling an immediate sense of danger. Unlike talk therapy (which can actually be re-traumatizing), EMDR activates the stuck part of the brain that triggers PTSD (via replicating REM) and you are able to listen to your own self-soothing internal dialogue. When that part of the brain hears that danger is no longer present, it sends signals to the amygdala to stop sending “fight or flight” signals to the body and the PTSD symptoms go away.
Do not let a friend of yours suffering from hyper-vigilance stay stuck there! That is cruel and painful! Help them find an EMDR therapist! It is treatable.
By Todd Harvey, MFT (Published Online June 27, 2013) For more information, check out my website: http://bayareaemdr.com