1000 petals by axinia

the only truth I know is my own experience

Does talking about trauma really help? – Surprising study results May 25, 2009

 image by me)

Holding myself a certificate in psychology I am rather sceptical to many methods and ideas of psychological treatments. May be because I have found a more efficient way to deal with problems…may be. And even though my close and distant friends often want my psychological help, I never use any “techniques” because I believe that the heart knows better what to say.

Anyway, one of the things I find somewhat wrong is the popular treatment in trauma psychology as well as in conventional wisdom  –to make the victim talk about the happening. News reports after school shootings and other such tragedies tell how specially trained trauma psychologists flood into the affected area to encourage people to talk through their feeling and fears of what has happened. But does it actually help?

I came across a very interesting study concerning responses to the terror attacks of 9/11, with results that may surprise you. Researchers at the University at Buffalo, The State University of New York, invited 2,138 people, most of whom were not directly exposed to the event, to express their thoughts and feelings on the day of the attack and for several days afterward. Over the next two years the research team did follow-up online inquiries to investigate the correspondents’ mental and physical health. They found that on average, those who chose to say little or nothing about their thoughts and feelings concerning the attack were actually better off than the people who talked about it. The measures of their well-being included physician-diagnosed ailments and levels of distress, including feeling helpless and symptoms of nervousness.

The results have important implications for expectations about how people should react to collective trauma that affects a whole community or nation, said the researchers.The leader of the study, Dr. Mark Seery from the psychology department at the University of Buffalo specifies that his findings apply to those who have experienced a collective trauma, not necessarily an individual one, and he certainly doesn’t want to prevent people from communicating their feelings if they wish.

The findings are published in the June issue of the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology.

I wonder how my readers would comment on that interesting study results?

LOVE, axinia


17 Responses to “Does talking about trauma really help? – Surprising study results”

  1. satyask Says:

    This is very interesting. So it is better not to ask people to “tell their troubles” unless they want to…

  2. soulstirrer Says:

    very interesting … in simple words just always do what u feel better…

  3. I think talking about trauma helps reducing a bit of anxiety…

    Destination Infinity

    • axinia Says:

      DI, may be or amy be not. I think it can as well increase the axiety, when people have to remember the horro agiain and again… But I have no personal expeirences of that so I can not judge what will be better.

  4. I’m no psychologist but I can never agree with the findings of that silly study which is not only inconclusive, but also uses dubious and unreliable methods like those “online follow-up enquiries”.

    If that team wants the world to believe that it is better for trauma victims and those close to them to keep mum on the effects of the trauma, then they are just a bunch of quacks! It’s better for such people to keep mum about what they found in their silly survey. The world does not need the advice of such sham psychologists!

    I know for a fact that each person responds differently to trauma. Not just that, the same person may respond to the same trauma differently at different times. I can speak from my personal experience, Axinia, unlike these quacks and their silly surveys. I had met with two similar accidents separated by a span of time. The first one had only a small physical trauma component but the psychological impact was bigger 😦 The second one was actually messier and bloodier in terms of the physical trauma suffered, but the first accident had kind of “toughened” me up, so to say, psychologically. I was able to brush off the psychological trauma, though the physical pain was quite bad 😦

    I think it all depends on how each person responds to trauma in each particular instance. I believe it has also got to do with the so-called “inner strength”. A person without much “inner strength” may need more psychological help and counselling and talk than someone with plenty of “inner strength”, either as a result of it being an inborn feature or one acquired through circumstances.

    Having said that, everyone who has gone through trauma needs atleast some psychological counselling to help heal the mental wounds, just as physical wounds are treated by medics. Those who don’t need it at all are either inhuman (NOT superhuman) or are made of dead stone – and that is because humans are mammals and are supposed to be more social creatures than most mammals 🙂

    • axinia Says:

      Raj, thanks for sharing it… Sorry to hear that you had such bad exepeinces. In that respect you alone must know better what works for you – either a therapy by talking or by bottlint it up…

      As I mentined in the earlier comment, I luckily had never experiences and traume (a least no collective). But I know some people who have been in the war, I think it is something liek a constant trauma…From these people I know that they no not wat to talk about. May be because they are emotinally balaned and strong personalities.

  5. swaps Says:

    Letting someone talk about a sad incident for several days afterward simply reinforces the negative effects, it weakens the will. It would be better to divert the person’s thoughts.

  6. Molly Says:

    I think you’re right–the heart always knows best. I don’t think there is one formula for everyone.

  7. vinayakah Says:

    There are pros and cons of talking about trauma or just keep silent. To say it to someone, can create feeling of relief, but I am asking if the relief is real or usefull.

    To whom should I say it, to make it right? If I say it to the tree, will it work same way as if I say it to a psychologist in a therapy, or a friend? So what is the point that makes it work? What really pays – me, or the object I am saying it to?

    So the last question is – can I say it to God silently in my heart, or loudly in the forest? Will it work to make me feel the relief?

    I think, by talking too much about calamities, if personal or collective, you provoke discussions, talking, thinking, analysing and other kinds of useles activities. May be what happens is that the person talking about it feels relief, because it is someone else now that is going suffer with me….. Oh crap!! :D:D:D

    One can say it to a person who is able to eat it, and forget at the same time, otherwise it is a headache 😉

    • axinia Says:

      the last point is really great “One can say it to a person who is able to eat it, and forget at the same time, otherwise it is a headache” -i agree!

      and the rest of the comment is also very very good, thanks!

  8. Nita Says:

    I guess I agree with those who say that there is no one formula. Some people don’t like to talk but then I think that suppression can have an effect of some health problem cropping up as mind and body are connected. At the same time there are people who just can’t let go and they should be encouraged to move on. Overall though I think talking is less important than actually being clear about what happened, which means realising that one is not to blame etc. For some people this realisation comes instantly but some people need help in clearing out their thoughts.

  9. I recently had counselling with a psychologist for depression and shared painful childhood memories thinking they may be relevant. After each session I felt more depressed and discovered by talking about trauma it actually reinforced negative feelings. Counselling has been beneficial, but not in the way I thought. I have now decided to use what I have been through as an opportunity for understanding and compassion towards others. To allow my brokenness and imperfections reach out to others who struggle.

  10. Bad Karma Says:

    > They found that on average, those who chose to say little or nothing about their thoughts and feelings concerning the attack were actually better off than the people who talked about it.

    Perhaps the quiter people care less to begin with? This is a correlation, but not causation.

  11. […] so they get a chance to help you out and give you a different opinion to consider. A study carried out by researchers at the University at Buffalo, The State University of New York has shown […]

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