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Trauma-Informed Approaches to Anxiety Beyond the Symptoms

There are many myths and misconceptions about anxiety. As the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) notes, many people assume that individuals with anxiety are just worrywarts. However, anxiety is deeply connected to trauma as a physical and psychological response to traumatic experiences. Therefore, trauma-specific approaches to anxiety can support healing. Moreover, trauma-specific approaches to anxiety can also support healing anxiety beyond the symptoms. Through the therapeutic interventions found in trauma-specific care, you can build tools to dismantle unhealthy thinking and behavior patterns.

At The Guest House, we know anxiety is greatly influenced by external stimuli, which often stem from stress or trauma. The distress of trauma can feel so overwhelming that it manifests as challenges like substance misuse, anxiety disorders, and depression. Moreover, the anxiety that can come with trauma and stress then makes it difficult to function in your daily life. Thus, anxiety can lead to avoidance behaviors. Avoidance behaviors can include avoiding the people, places, and situations that remind you of your trauma.

However, challenges with anxiety from trauma often go unaddressed due to stigma. Moreover, if you experience challenges with substance use disorder (SUD) as well, traditional rehabs often focus only on the SUD. When perceptions of self-defeating behaviors are narrowed to one point, it leaves little room to understand your specific experiences. Therefore, addressing the co-occurring nature of trauma, anxiety, and or SUD supports treatment beyond the symptoms. Trauma-specific approaches give you access to support that addresses your specific needs and experiences beyond the symptoms of anxiety.

Yet, you may question how treatment approaches can support healing anxiety beyond the symptoms. Increasing your awareness of trauma-specific approaches with help you understand their value for anxiety and long-term well-being.

What Is a Trauma-Specific Approach to Care?

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), caring for trauma can be defined in two ways. On one hand, a trauma-specific approach can be a system-level approach. In a system-level approach, a trauma-specific approach focuses on integrating trauma-specific practices in a service delivery system. More specifically, a refined approach delivered by behavioral health services increases understanding of trauma and awareness of its impact. Through a trauma-specific approach, treatment providers are aware of and understand that trauma is intersectional across settings, services, and populations.

Within a trauma-specific approach, providers make a point of viewing trauma through a lens that considers individual experiences and cultural context. Through a cultural lens, you can recognize the individualized nature of trauma and other co-occurring conditions. Although everyone will experience trauma like the loss of a loved one, your experience is still unique to you. In a trauma-specific approach, healthcare providers know that the individual nature of trauma impacts how you perceive and process traumatic experiences. Listed below are the four “R’s” that highlight the broad system-level need for a trauma-specific approach:

  • Realize: This approach realizes that the impact of trauma is widespread
    • Highlights that there are multiple potential paths to recovery
  • Recognize: This approach recognizes the signs and symptoms of trauma
    • Recognizes trauma not only in clients but families, treatment staff, and others as well
  • Respond: This approach responds to the widespread impact of trauma with education
    • Integrates knowledge of trauma into policies, procedures, and practices in all areas of service
  • Resist: This approach actively works to resist retraumatization
    • Focuses on examining past and current treatment strategies, program procedures, and organizational

A more narrow definition focuses on providing evidence-based trauma interventions for treatment beyond the symptoms. Trauma-specific approaches incorporate interventions that are highly effective. Through interventions like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and peer support, anxious thinking patterns can be healed beyond the symptoms.

Interventions for trauma are also effective for addressing symptom management. In addition, such interventions can also support practices for healing beyond symptoms in your daily life. As noted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are guiding principles of a trauma-specific approach. Through the six guiding principles, you can see the need to build an individual plan of care. Listed below are the six guiding principles of a trauma-specific approach to care:

  • Safety: Works to ensure physical and emotional safety
  • Trustworthiness and transparency: Clarity in treatment planning and collaboration in building a plan of care
    • Decisions are made with transparency to build and maintain trust among everyone participating in treatment
      • Clients and loved ones
    • Focuses on maintaining clear and appropriate boundaries
  • Peer support: Provides a safe space for clients to engage with peers to share and learn from each other’s lived experiences
    • Access to services can support building safety, hope, trust, and empowerment
  • Collaboration and mutuality: Works to create a collaborative partnership between clients and healthcare providers
    • Recognizes that healing happens in supportive relationships and the sharing of decision-making power
    • Gives clients control over their treatment and recovery
      • Everyone has a role to play in the therapeutic process of a trauma-specific approach, and healing can come from many sources like clinicians, clients, family, and friends
  • Empowerment, choice, and voice: Works to promote a client-centered approach to treatment and recovery
    • Focuses on shared decision-making, choice, and goal setting
    • Encourages the strengthening of client and family experience of personal choice
    • Supports self-advocacy and building a plan for recovery that is unique to what you need and want for recovery
      • Recognizes the need for an individualized approach to care because everyone’s experiences are unique to the
    • Helps build on what clients, families, staff, and the broad community can offer through treatment
      • Highlights and uplifts strengths rather than only looking at perceived deficits
  • Cultural, historical, and gender issues: A trauma-specific approach is committed to providing services and resources that are sensitive to the gender, culture, and unique background of each client
    • Actively moves beyond harmful cultural stereotypes and biases
    • Engages in culturally responsive services to meet the specific needs and experiences of underserved communities
    • Promotes offering services that support the healing power of traditional cultural connections
    • Recognizes and addresses the impact of historical trauma

Now you have more insight into what are trauma-specific approaches to treatment. With more insight, you can understand the tools used to manage anxiety symptoms. In addition, looking at trauma-specific approaches to manage anxiety will showcase how they support healing beyond the symptoms.

Trauma-Specific Strategies for Managing Anxiety

As noted in Plos One, trauma-specific interventions can be used to manage various mental health symptoms related to trauma. Many of the trauma-specific interventions have been utilized to treat challenges with anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Listed below are some of the interventions and coping skills that support healing anxiety beyond the symptoms:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT): Works on dismantling unhealthy thinking and behavior patterns
    • Decreases depression, anxiety, and emotional dysregulation
    • Improves interpersonal relationships
    • Reduces risky and self-defeating behaviors
      • Substance use disorder (SUD)
  • Building breathing techniques: Practice taking deep breaths to help regulate breathing and reduce anxiety symptoms in the moment
  • Practicing mindfulness: Awareness of the present moment helps you get out of your head
    • You learn to recognize and understand yourself through self-reflection
  • Engaging in muscle relaxation: You learn how to alternate between tensing and relaxing your muscles to reduce anxiety and stress
    • Over time the practice of relaxation can become an automated response to relax in moments of stress
  • Prolonged exposure (PE): Supports cognitive restructuring through gradual exposure to the things that give you anxiety
    • Learn to restructure thoughts surrounding trauma-related anxiety with psychoeducation
  • Practicing self-monitoring: You keep a journal of your anxious thoughts, emotions, sensations, and behaviors
    • Helps increase your awareness of the situations that heighten your anxiety
      • With more insight, you can build adaptive coping strategies to change unhealthy thinking and behavior patterns
  • Engaging expressive writing: Through journaling, you learn to express and process difficult-to-reach or understand thoughts and feeling
  • Fostering self-care coping: You use self-care skills to support learning how to build healthy independent coping strategies
    • Grounding techniques
      • Count down using your five senses
  • Building a sleep routine: Allows your brain to fully rest
    • Supports clearer thinking and learning, promotes physical well-being, and reduces stress and anxiety
  • Reaching out for support: Mutually supportive interpersonal relationships can give you the space you need to work through difficult thoughts and emotions
    • You gain a sense of belonging from the connection, encouragement, and lived experiences of people you trust
  • Engaging in activities: Encourages you to reduce anxious avoidant behaviors by engaging in meaningful activities
    • Spending time with your loved ones
    • Going for a walk, hike, and or bike ride
    • Volunteering
    • Visiting a library or museum
    • Take a class: painting, cooking, or dancing
  • Staying active: Engaging in physical activity can improve physical well-being, increase positive mood, and divert your attention from anxious thoughts
  • Fostering nutritional balance: Eating balanced meals with fruits, vegetables, omega-3 fatty acids, and protein can support increased positive mood

Many of the coping skills you can learn in treatment highlight healing anxiety beyond the symptoms. Further, the strategies you learn in treatment can be carried beyond treatment to support recovery beyond the symptoms. Yet, how do therapeutic interventions like yoga, deep breathing, and CBT support recovery beyond the symptoms of anxiety? You can heal anxiety beyond the symptoms by understanding the mind-body connection of trauma.

Beyond the Symptoms: Addressing When Past Trauma Gets Stuck in the Body

Many people are often unaware that the challenges they experience with self-defeating behaviors stem from trauma. Difficulties with things like substance misuse, chronic pain, and mental health disorders, reflect stuck trauma. Moreover, trauma stuck in the body often manifests as physical symptoms like muscle tension and rapid heartbeat. Thus, many of the physical and psychological symptoms of anxiety are reflections of stuck trauma. As noted by ADAA, trauma can increase anxiety around general worries and lead to avoidance of anxiety-inducing situations. The interconnected relationship between trauma and anxiety showcases the need to understand co-occurring challenges.

Now, addressing recovery beyond the symptoms means acknowledging the roots of your anxiety in trauma. By addressing the roots of your anxiety in trauma, you can heal beyond the symptoms. You can heal beyond the symptoms of anxiety because you understand the roots of your distress. In particular, looking at interventions like CBT showcases the way trauma-specific approaches heal beyond the symptoms.

According to Focus, CBT is a family of techniques designed to dismantle maladaptive thinking and behaviors. The techniques and interventions found in CBT can dismantle maladaptive thinking and behaviors with adaptive coping strategies. However, before you can build adaptive coping strategies for long-term recovery. To heal beyond the symptoms, you must recognize three important components of anxiety:

  • Dysfunctional thinking patterns
  • Psychological distress and physiological symptoms
  • Unproductive anxiety-related behaviors

Once you recognize the impact of anxiety on your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, you can utilize CBT interventions. Listed below are some of the CBT interventions you can utilize to support healing beyond the symptoms of anxiety:

  • Cognitive intervention: Works to facilitate more adaptive thinking through cognitive restructuring and behavioral experiments
    • Behavioral experiments: You utilize empirical evidence to investigate if maladaptive beliefs have evidence that supports that thinking
    • Cognitive restructuring: You develop more adaptive and realistic interpretations of events by recognizing thinking traps
      • Biased thinking patterns and heightened perception of negative outcomes
      • Better able to engage in balanced thinking and come to alternative interpretations not based on anxiety
  • Behavioral intervention: Utilizes exposure therapy techniques to explore prolonged fear and avoidance
    • Through exposure exercises, you are encouraged to confront a feared situation without using avoidance or safety behaviors
      • You learn through testing that your negative outcome beliefs are less likely to happen

With more awareness of CBT, you can see the benefits of a holistic approach to healing beyond the symptoms.

Fostering Healing Beyond the Symptoms With Holistic Care

Therapeutic interventions like CBT highlight the importance of holistic care for healing beyond the symptoms. According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA), a holistic approach to care recognizes you as a whole person. Through a holistic approach to care, your individual needs, values, and goals are put at the center of recovery. Holistic care is vital to healing beyond the symptoms and long-term recovery because it considers your specific experiences. Thus, with holistic care, you can work in collaboration with your clinicians to build a recovery plan that matches you.

Supporting Holistic Healing at The Guest House

As noted by the VA, recovery is a process that does not happen overnight. When you commit yourself to practicing trauma-specific coping skills, you can truly start to heal beyond the symptoms. Some valuable coping skills you learn from holistic healing beyond the symptoms:

  • Active coping: You have learned to accept the impact of your trauma on your life
    • Through acceptance, you are empowered to take action to improve your life satisfaction
      • Active coping is powerful for healing beyond the symptoms of anxiety
        • This coping strategy must be practiced every day to become a fundamental well-being tool in your toolbox
  • Positive coping: Utilizes specific actions to help reduce anxiety symptoms and contribute to long-term positive changes beyond the symptoms
    • Increasing your awareness and understanding of trauma and anxiety through education
    • Learning to feel less misunderstood and alone by talking to trusted support people
    • Practicing your relaxation tools
    • Utilizing positive distractions to improve mood and build a meaningful life
    • Reach out for support from clinicians

Looking at active and positive coping skills reflects the dynamic nature of recovery. There is no one-size-fits-all path to recovering from trauma, anxiety, and or other conditions. At The Guest House, we know multidimensional and personalized treatment allows us to meet you where you are. No matter where you are on your journey to recovery, a personalized approach can address your specific needs. Moreover, personalized treatment gives you the space to explore and experiment with different therapeutic tools to support you. With a wide range of therapeutic modalities, we can support you in finding the right path for you.

Unaddressed trauma often gets stuck in the body and manifests as self-defeating behaviors like anxiety. Thus, trauma contributes to anxious avoidance behaviors in which you avoid people, places, things, and situations that remind you have your trauma. However, healing anxiety can happen with trauma-specific approaches. A trauma-specific approach acknowledges the co-occurring nature of trauma and anxiety. Through trauma-specific approaches, you learn how to move beyond the symptoms of anxiety with interventions like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). As a holistic approach, CBT supports the replacement of maladaptive thinking and behavior patterns with adaptive patterns. At The Guest House, we offer a wide range of therapeutic modalities to address your specific needs for long-term healing. Call us at (855) 483-7800 today.