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Understanding Trauma and its Impact on Relationships


We are biologically designed to seek safety and connections in relationships. Whether it’s a romantic partnership, familial bonds, or friendships, these connections contribute significantly to our emotional well-being. However, trauma can have a disruptive influence on the dynamics of relationships. In this blog post, l explore what trauma is, its various forms, and how it can profoundly affect the way we engage and connect with others.

Defining Trauma

Trauma can be defined as an emotional response that can result from experiencing an event or series of events that overwhelm the nervous system’s ability to cope. Trauma is generally associated with life-threatening experiences such as physical or sexual assault, or violence. However, other distressing experiences such as divorce, ongoing financial or legal stressors, and chronic illness can also result in trauma.

Trauma and the Brain

As previously stated, experiences that overwhelm the nervous system will activate the stress fight, flight, or freeze response. To allow the body to respond to the experience, regions of the brain responsible for processing information from that experience into a memory go offline. If the processing of the experience is not able to resume, that experience can get stored as a maladaptive memory – without a time stamp indicating the threat is over.

Signs of Trauma

Individual responses to adverse or traumatic experiences will vary. According to research, many individuals’ Initial reactions can include exhaustion, confusion, sadness, anxiety, agitation, numbness, dissociation, confusion, physical arousal, and blunted affect. 

More distressing responses can include persistent fatigue, sleep disorders, nightmares, fear of recurrence, anxiety focused on flashbacks, depression, and avoidance of emotions, sensations, or activities that are associated with the trauma.

These reactions can resolve naturally over time provided the individual’s nervous system can return to a “felt sense of safety”. The “felt sense of safety” is when an individual feels safe in their body, in their environment, and the people within their environment. If this does not occur, this heightened state of “felt” danger will wreak havoc on the individual’s physical and emotional well-being.

Trauma and its Impact on Relationships

Many individuals who seek therapy have often experienced some form of traumatic or adverse experiences that have hijacked their nervous system. When is constantly hijacked, this can leave a lasting imprint of trauma – making it difficult to discern what is safe and who is safe. Although some individuals may not connect adverse or traumatic experiences to why they are seeking therapy, trauma can show up as trust issues, communication difficulties, problems with emotional regulation, and intimacy issues – just to name a few.

  1. Trust Issues: Individuals who have experienced trauma may struggle with trusting others. The betrayal or violation they experience can create a pervasive fear of vulnerability, making it challenging to open up to others.
  2. Communication Difficulties: Trauma can hinder effective communication, individuals may find it challenging to express their emotions or articulate their needs. This can lead to misunderstandings and conflict within relationships.
  3. Attachment Styles: Trauma, especially trauma resulting from adverse childhood experiences, can influence attachment styles, affecting the way individuals form and maintain connections. Some may become anxiously attached, seeking constant reassurance, while others may develop an avoidant attachment style, distancing themselves to avoid potential hurt.
  4. Emotional Regulation Challenges: Individuals who have experienced trauma may struggle with regulating their emotions. This can manifest as intense mood swings, difficulty managing stress, or an inability to cope with everyday challenges, impacting the stability of relationships.
  5. Intimacy Issues: Individuals may grapple with intimacy, finding it hard to be vulnerable or connect on a deep emotional level. This can strain romantic relationships and hinder the development of close bonds.

Healing Trauma with EMDR Therapy

Understanding the impact of adverse or traumatic experiences is crucial. Therapy in a safe and supportive space can allow individuals to explore and address the effects of trauma. In addition, EMDR therapy – a memory-based therapy -can provide healing by accessing the memories that are maladaptively stored in the nervous system.


Trauma casts a long shadow on the landscape of relationships, influencing the way individuals connect with others. By fostering understanding, and compassion, and providing the necessary support, we can help those impacted by trauma navigate the complexities of forming and maintaining meaningful connections. In doing so, we contribute to creating a more empathetic and supportive environment for healing and growth.

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If you are ready to get started, simply request an initial appointment.

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The Impact of Stress On Women and the Role of EMDR Therapy


In the fast-paced and demanding world we live in, stress has become an unavoidable aspect of daily life. Women often face a unique set of stressors that can take a toll on their well-being. From the daily demands of work, and juggling family and parenting expectations, to societal expectations, women are often impacted by stress. In this blog, I will cover the two types that I see in therapy and how Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR) can help alleviate the impact of stress.

Stress and Women

Stress is our body’s response to pressure to internal or external pressures. Everyone experiences stress due to various events but how we manage and react to stress can influence our overall wellbeing. When stress becomes chronic or excessive, it becomes harder to adapt and cope.  According to the Women’s Health Organization, women are more likely than men to report symptoms of stress and are also more likely to have mental health conditions that are made worse by stress, such as depression or anxiety.

Degrees of Stress

Although stress is normal, it can manifest in various forms, each presenting unique challenges to a woman’s well-being. For today’s blog, we will focus on two types of stress.

  1. Acute Stress: Acute stress, the body’s immediate and short-term response to a perceived threat or challenge, can strain relationships due to the intensity and urgency of the stressor. Examples of experiences that can contribute to acute stress can be traffic jams, arguments with a loved one or a boss, and impending work deadlines, just to name a few.
  2. Chronic or Toxic Stress: Toxic stress has its roots in adverse childhood experiences (or ACEs) where environments are marked by abuse, neglect, or chronic family dysfunction. Research on adverse childhood experiences demonstrates the correlation between early adverse experiences and the impact later in life.

ACEs have been linked to increased risk for alcohol and substance use disorders, suicide, mental health conditions, and health risk behaviors throughout life. The toxic stress caused by ACEs can result in increased risk for heavy alcohol use, tobacco use, obesity, and risky sexual behaviors.

National Association for Chronic Disease

Symptoms of Chronic Stress

Although not everyone responds to chronic stress the same, symptoms of toxic stress may include:

  • Muscle pain
  • Headaches
  • Gastrointestinal upset (such as stress-induced constipation)
  • Increased heart rate, blood pressure, or respiration
  • Sleep disturbances or nightmares
  • Changes in appetite, eating, and weight
  • Trouble regulating emotions
  • Increased anxiety and irritability
  • Depression or mood swings
  • Impulsive, risky, or destructive behavior patterns
  • Increased use of substances or alcohol
  • Difficulty focusing, concentrating, or remembering things
  • Inability to feel present or engaged in activities
  • Impaired functioning in one or more areas of life
  • Social withdrawal or isolation
  • Racing thoughts or negative thoughts about self and future

Impact of Stress on Relationships

Stress is common in relationships, but for women who tend to keep stress to themselves, it can be potentially harmful to relationships. Here are ways stress can impact relationships.

  1. Communication Breakdown: Stress can hinder effective communication between partners. Women who grapple with their stressors may find it challenging to express their needs and emotions, leading to misunderstandings and tension in the relationship.
  2. Increased Conflict: Stress often magnifies existing conflicts and can create new ones. Couples experiencing chronic stress may find themselves arguing more frequently, with heightened emotional intensity.
  3. Decreased Intimacy: Physical and emotional intimacy can take a hit when one or both partners are under chronic stress. Fatigue, mood swings, and a sense of emotional distance can erode the closeness that is essential for a healthy relationship.
  4. Changes in Priorities: Chronic stress may shift priorities, causing individuals to focus more on managing their stressors than nurturing their relationships. This shift can lead to a sense of neglect and isolation within the partnership.
  5. Impact on the Mental Health of Both Partners: The stress experienced by one partner can have a ripple effect on the mental health of the other. A shared sense of burden and responsibility may contribute to a cycle of stress within the relationship.

EMDR Therapy and Stress Management

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy has proven effective in treating various mental health issues, including those stemming from stress and trauma. EMDR therapy helps individuals process distressing memories and experiences.

  1. Trauma Resolution: EMDR therapy is particularly beneficial for individuals who have experienced traumatic events contributing to chronic stress. By helping individuals process and integrate traumatic memories, EMDR can alleviate the emotional charge associated with these experiences.
  2. Reducing Anxiety and Depression: EMDR has demonstrated effectiveness in reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression, both of which are often heightened by chronic stress. By addressing the underlying issues contributing to these mental health challenges, EMDR promotes emotional well-being.
  3. Enhancing Coping Mechanisms: The therapy helps individuals develop adaptive coping mechanisms, enabling them to navigate stressors more effectively. This increased resilience can have a positive impact on both mental health and relationships.
  4. Improving Self-Esteem: Chronic stress can erode self-esteem over time. EMDR assists individuals in reprocessing negative beliefs about themselves, fostering a more positive self-image, and contributing to improved overall well-being.


As we explore the intricate relationship between stress and its impact on women’s mental and physical health, and relationships, it’s essential to recognize the value of therapeutic interventions like EMDR therapy. With EMDR therapy, we can address the root source(s) of acute and toxic stress in order to move toward healing, resilience, and healthier relationships.

I invite you to take a few moments to get grounded and let go of any stress you might be holding on to. If you found this article helpful, be sure to leave a comment below.

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Signs of Depression

Everyone occasionally feels blue or sad but these feelings are short-lived and pass within a few days.  When you have depression, it will normally last longer than a few days and interfere with daily life. Grief, losing a job, major illness, chronic stress or major life issues such as divorce (to name a few) can cause depression.  Many people with a depression never seek treatment. But the majority who do, even those with the most severe depression, can get better with proper treatment.  

Signs and symptoms of depression: 

  • Sad or irritable mood
  • Overeating or loss of appetite
  • Diminished interest in or enjoyment of activities
  • Lack of energy
  • Problems concentrating
  • Suicidal thoughts or gestures
  • Social withdrawal
  • Sleeplessness or hypersomnia
  • Feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness or guilt
  • Frequent crying episodes

If you believe you (or someone you know) is experiencing depression the most important thing you can do is seek.  A family physician or licensed therapist will be able assess if you have depression and provide available treatment recommendations.

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Is Therapy Right for Me?

Have you been considering therapy but unsure if it is right for you?  There are many reasons why people seek therapy.  Sometimes it is to deal with long-standing psychological issues, or problems with anxiety or depression. Other times, it is in response to unexpected changes in one’s life such as a divorce or work transition. Many seek the advice of a counselor as they pursue their own personal exploration and growth.

Working with a therapist can help provide insight, support, and new strategies for all types of life challenges in a safe place.   Therapy can help address many types of issues including depression, anxiety, conflict, grief, stress management, body-image issues, and general life transitions.

Therapy is right for anyone who is interested in getting the most out of their life by taking responsibility, creating greater self-awareness, and working towards change in their lives.

Take the next step by scheduling an appointment.

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