Trauma in Men and Boys

June 6, 2022
men

Experts in the mental health field have long known that women carry a horrific burden of trauma into adulthood. As many as 30% of girls encounter some form of sexual abuse by age 21. This is unacceptable and the cause of untold suffering. Luckily, this trauma is being more openly addressed and confronted today. However, we may have lost sight of how many boys become traumatized in childhood. Recent exposes about the criminal behavior of priests in the Catholic Church and leaders within the Boy Scouts have uncovered what some of us have suspected for a long time: huge numbers of vulnerable boys become victimized before adulthood. Sadly, boys and men are less likely to speak out or seek help. They may suffer quietly for years or even decades before this internalized misery bubbles forth with symptoms like anger, alcoholism, depression, or anxiety. 

Abuse such as this may become full-blown Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). In this case, the symptoms are consistent anxiety, flashbacks, insomnia, withdrawal, and disconnection.   Research such as the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) studies indicate that experiences like sexual abuse, emotional abuse, or physical abuse create scars that last a lifetime.  This simple assessment tool asks only ten questions about concerns such as abuse, parental domestic violence, and parental alcohol abuse in childhood. The reported scores predict depression, suicide attempts, anxiety, addiction, and even medical illness in mid-life. This simple score may be our best predictor of mental illness in adulthood. Sadly, our current treatments such as SSRI medications like Prozac and Zoloft for trauma and PTSD are inadequate.

At Wholeness we are involved in landmark research about the use of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy to treat PTSD in adults. As one of 13 sites around the world engaged in this work, we have been working with the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) for more than five years to bring this work to the public. We have found this treatment to be particularly helpful for combat trauma, a form of PTSD that is common in men. Enrollment for this study closed earlier this month and we hope this treatment will be released by the FDA later next year. This work is powerful enough that it was assigned Breakthrough Therapy Status by the FDA in 2017. We clearly need treatment options like MDMA to treat trauma more effectively.

In the meantime, Wholeness offers ketamine-assisted psychotherapy to treat trauma. This work is very similar to the work with MDMA in that we create an altered state of consciousness to make this process more tolerable and more effective. Ketamine significantly softens the fear and terror that is so connected to childhood trauma and PTSD. Eyeshades and music help the participant enter a psychedelic experience to less painfully access the traumatic experiences. Our therapists at Wholeness are trauma-informed and most have been trained in working with MDMA by MAPS. Early research on ketamine for PTSD is quite hopeful. Whether ketamine or traditional psychotherapy, the most important first step is to acknowledge the pain and suffering that is caused by abuse and seek help. 

If you are struggling with PTSD, please contact the Wholeness Center. We have a variety of mental health tools to assist you. If you live in the Northern Colorado/ Ft. Collins area and would like to learn more about the innovative programs the Wholeness Center has to offer, please call 970-221-1106 or email info@wholeness.com.

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