By: Dr. David H. Baron, MD, Senior Staff Psychiatrist at Yellowbrick
Recent research published in Development and Psychopathology suggests that children who are neglected, or physically or sexually abused, and cope with the experience by avoiding painful thoughts, are significantly more likely to develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).1
In the study of 51 girls who had experienced these kinds of mistreatment, those who were able and willing to talk about their painful experiences and feelings were less likely to develop PTSD symptoms one year later. The girls who avoided these thoughts were more likely a year later to have symptoms of PTSD.
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a treatment technique which includes mindfulness meditation and other mindfulness-promoting techniques, identifying the values one finds most important, and taking committed action to pursue value-based action despite the inevitable pain with which everyone is faced in life.
Those who have been traumatized and are at risk for developing PTSD (with some studies indicating as many as 40% of those who are abused are at risk for this complication) often experience painful thoughts, emotions, and urges to avoid experiences that are reminders of these. Finding ways to manage these painful experiences holds the potential to reduce the risk of later symptoms. Since the symptoms of PTSD can be highly disabling, this can make a crucial difference in the quality of a trauma survivor’s life.
ACT offers a variety of techniques to help trauma survivors differentiate between the inevitable pain of having lived through abuse or neglect, and the suffering that comes with strenuous efforts to suppress, eliminate, or avoid that pain. By redirecting her efforts toward pursuing valued action, a survivor of trauma can lead a more fulfilling and less limited life. Since the skills learned as part of ACT are directly aimed at reducing experiential avoidance, ACT also may reduce the risk of developing PTSD.
Yellowbrick, as part of its Life Strategies Program, offers a weekly ACT group. In this group, participants practice mindfulness and related meditation techniques—which allow one to observe and accept their pain without becoming fused with it—identify their values, and practice and plan what committed actions they can take to further these values. Those who apply these techniques are able to lead a more valued, vitalized and fulfilling life regardless of their painful experiences.
Yellowbrick collaborates with adolescents and emerging adults, ages 16-30's, their families and participating professionals toward the development and implementation of a strategic “Life Plan.” An integrative, multi-specialty consultation clarifies strengths, limitations, and risks, and defines motivations, goals and choices.
A mental health condition that’s characterized by intense shifts in mood including both manic and depressive episodes.
People living with Major Depressive Disorder, or MDD, experience episodes of depression and sadness that are debilitating to daily life.
Those living with anxiety disorders experience high levels of anxiety and stress that interfere negatively with daily life.
A mental health issue in which a person’s cognitive function is impaired, resulting in symptoms like experiencing challenges with conducting speech, reading and writing, and behavior.
Mental health disorders that negatively affect a person’s behaviors, thought patterns, and function. People diagnosed with these disorders experience challenges with managing relationships and understanding various situations.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a mental health condition that people can develop as a result of experiencing traumatic situations, characterized by symptoms including flashbacks, avoidance behaviors, and more.
A mental health condition that is characterized by specific symptoms of forgetfulness and lack of concentration, which makes it challenging to complete necessary tasks.
Mental health conditions that interfere with a person’s eating habits, thought patterns, and behaviors in negative ways.
A mental health disorder diagnosable with the DSM-5 that is characterized by both obsessions and compulsive behaviors.