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Media and Trauma

Do you feel more anxious or on edge? Does the ever-pounding news cycle weigh you down? The pressures and expectations of day to day life can feel compounded by the endless chaos of current events; which can lead to an uncertain future further aggravating our deepest anxieties. Feeling this way might not seem like the norm to you, but in recent years, anxiety driven by social and political news has risen.

Dr. Blasey Ford testifying on her alleged assault by Brett Kavanaugh was widely covered in the media and social media. Powerful men such as Harvey Weinstein, Bill Crosby and Dr. Larry Nassar of Michigan State have been challenged, publicly accused, and later prosecuted and sentenced for committing various sexual assault offenses. The bombardment of updates, social media responses, and “breaking news” can trigger emotions and pent up anxiety to rise.

These occurrences only further remind us that we live in a traumatic society more than ever before. The #MeToo movement was able to provide a sense of empowerment and validation for survivors to share their stories, many for the very first time. While sharing can be overwhelming and paralyzing, especially for sexual assault survivors who deal with acute stress and PTSD symptoms as a result of their trauma. However, hearing and sharing our stories is crucial, it can bring about many reminders of our own sexual assaults which can be exhausting and even retraumatizing.

It is important to acknowledge the differences of how we respond to trauma, which can manifest in physical, mental, or emotional ways. Some of these characteristics may include: intrusive thoughts, flashbacks to events that are triggering, increased awareness of your surroundings, changes in mood and managing emotional reactions. It is essential to be aware that everyone responds to assault differently which can be challenging to recognize initially. Once aware of these emotions, it can be very easy to fall into a sense of isolation, hopelessness, and helplessness.

Trauma is a physical and psychological experience, therefore, one is very likely to also experience physical ailments of trauma and trauma memories. Recurrent smells, body aches and pains, fatigue, nausea, headaches, as well as sensitivity to noise. Our body and mind react to trauma and will be triggered whenever one comes in contact with reminders of the traumatic event/experiences. But there is hope!

Therapy can be a place to explore these painful or traumatic memories and emotions. Therapy provides a safe environment to process events that are triggering and stressful. It is important to find a good therapist that you feel comfortable and safe with. While you are searching for a therapist that matches your needs, here are additional resources that are available to you (please see below).

Additional Resources:

National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence: http://www.ncdsv.org/

RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network):1- 800-656-4673 http://www.rainn.org/

RTC (Rape Treatment Center) 310-451-0042 http://therapefoundation.org/programs/rape-treatment-center/

Loveisrespect (National Dating Abuse Helpline): 1-866-331-9474 http://www.loveisrespect.org

LGBT National Help Center 1-888-843-4564 http://www.glbthotline.org/

Written by Dr. Sourena Haj-Mohamadi, Psychological Assistant and Associate Therapist to Dr. Katja Pohl and Adjunct Assistant Professor at USC