Following the December tornadoes that hit North Texas, some of the physical repairs have been made. But emotional scars remain.
As a part of the KERA series One Crisis Away: Rebuilding A Life, Lauren Silverman spoke with two mental health experts about ways to recover from trauma -- not just natural disasters.
Dr. Ann Marie Warren is a staff psychologist at Baylor University Medical Center. Jeff Quan is a counselor at Eastfield College. They talked about how to heal the emotional scars.
Warren said that the first step is letting patients know that what they’re feeling is normal.
“We get this a lot. They think they’re going crazy,” she said. “We can explain to them you’re not going crazy. These are normal reactions to trauma and they should subside.”
In the hospital, Warren said, caring for the emotional health of a trauma patient goes hand-in-hand with healing the body.
“Early on, when patients are first starting to be aware that they’re in the hospital, it’s important to normalize those emotions for them,” she said. “Otherwise, they will have a great deal of worry and increased anxiety."
Quan emphasized the importance of recognizing and validating one’s anxieties after trauma.
“It’s a normal feeling by a normal person in an abnormal situation,” Quan said. “By normalizing the feelings of the victim, you lay the groundwork for their continued growth and healing.”
Both agreed that triggers can get in the way of recovery.
To get past that, patients have to face the trigger. They have to retrain the brain to understand that the threat doesn’t exist anymore.
“What we don’t want people to do is avoid," Warren said. "The more they avoid a trigger word, or a trigger response or a trigger stimulus of some kind, that makes the anxiety worse.”
Quan said that avoiding something is a survival mechanism, one that doesn’t ultimately help cure the emotional wounds.
“The longer someone waits, the more difficult it is,” Quan said. “But that does not mean that it cannot be overcome.”
How to get help
Here are some facilities in North Texas that provide therapy and support groups for trauma victims.
Explore the series
KERA has been following families as they rebuild after the December tornadoes. Meet the families in the KERA series One Crisis Away: Rebuilding A Life.