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Building resiliency after trauma
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building resiliency after trauma

Research shows common themes in regards to how human beings bounce back from adversity. Unfortunately, a large amount of people suffer from unfortunate events in their lives. Resilience may be one of the most important qualities in handling a traumatic experience. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), resilience is defined as, “The process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress — such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems or workplace and financial stressors.”

Over the decades, many scholars have sought to explore and further define resilience to help victims overcome incidents of trauma and other forms of abuse. For example, a study led by Michael Ungar of Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada delved into how a person becomes resilient. Ungar weighed biological and environmental factors and found that nurture had a stronger influence than nature. A person’s setting either does or does not allow an opportunity for resiliency to grow due to individual, situational and cultural contexts. The variation can also be extremely large, as both comforting and threatening surroundings can influence resiliency. However, the most interesting finding was that regardless of the environment or population observed, resilience was displayed similarly in each.

In addition, research conducted in 2004 examined why certain groups of people exposed to traumatic events go on to live stable, positive lives while others are plagued by further psychological disruptions. Researcher George A. Bonanno attempted to shift the view of resilience from a treatment perspective, which deemed the coping mechanism rare or unusual, to a more comprehensive stance. His evidence supports the claim that resilient characteristics manifest more often than previously noted, develop in a variety of unique ways and can predict a person’s rate of progress in recovery.

Bonanno continued this line of research and fleshed out the different types of resiliency. He explained in his writings that many unexpected paths of mental toughness can be traveled in an individual’s mind. Interesting enough, Bonanno’s observation found that some variants of resilience are not always beneficial to the person. He specifically notes that some people who use “self-enhancing biases” and other esteem boosting mechanisms are met with more frequent social problems, but this same group also handles larger problems better.

Along with the academic desire to understand resilience is the exploration on how to employ it. One of the most prominent subjects of this research is a model crafted by Salvatore R. Maddi, Ph.D., a psychologist affiliated with the University of Chicago and University of California, Irvine. His concept, known as hardiness, has been shown to strengthen physical and mental aspects of health by encouraging self-efficacy and a capacity to counter adversity. By improving characteristics such as leadership, general conduct, stamina and mood, hardiness has benefited many different individuals exposed to trauma and immense stress or tragedy.

Moreover, other forms of therapy have also shown great promise in relieving the mental repercussions of trauma and distress. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) has demonstrated strong effects in people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) by acknowledging the relationship between thoughts, feelings and actions within the mind and body. By addressing the maladjusted thoughts as a result of a traumatic experience, a therapist can help a person reframe the incident in a more positive way and reduce associated feelings of negativity. Even brief and carefully crafted interventions have reduced or prevented PTSD in some victims of trauma and abuse. Pioneered by E. B. Foa and her colleagues, the team has administered education, relaxation techniques, repeated and gradual exposures and other cognitive restructuring that effectively treated symptoms of trauma in a shorter period of time, lasting up to a few weeks at most.

Overall, resilience is a key factor in the recovery and prevention of traumatic responses. Since this defense mechanism is not innate in human nature and rather a learned characteristic, anyone is vulnerable to suffering from trauma. At Sovereign Health of Arizona, our treatment staff has integrated innovative and widely supported treatment options to better serve clients. If you or someone you know is afflicted by a disorder caused by trauma or extreme stress, please contact us online or call 866-598-5661.

Written by Sovereign Health Group writer Lee Yates

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