Trauma is an emotional response to a terrible event like an accident, rape or natural disaster. Immediately after the event, shock and denial are typical. Longer term reactions include unpredictable emotions, flashbacks, strained relationships and even physical symptoms like headaches or nausea. While these feelings are normal, some people have difficulty moving on with their lives. Mental health clinicians can help these individuals find constructive ways of managing their emotions.
Most people will experience trauma in their lifetime, and can include:
- A car accident
- Sexual trauma or sexual abuse
- Physical and/or emotional abuse or neglect
- The sudden death of a loved one
- Childhood neglect
- Living with a family member with mental health or substance use disorders
- Sudden, unexplained separation from a loved one
- Racism, discrimination, and oppression
- Criminal victimization
- Exposure to the violence of war
- Trauma related to violence specific to one’s gender identity and/or sexual orientation
- A natural disaster
According to The Adverse Childhood Experiences Study, and the Philadelphia Urban ACE Study the more a child is exposed to stressful and potentially traumatic experiences, the greater their risk for chronic health conditions and health-risk behaviors. Adults who experienced trauma in childhood are often “wired” differently than those who did not. Some research on trauma indicates that trauma victims’ brains are primed to deal with nearly constant stress, and thus those individuals can struggle to respond appropriately to situations that would otherwise appear normal and non-threatening. This helps to explain why many adult trauma survivors struggle with depression, anxiety, and other issues specific to emotional regulation. These resulting mental health issues can contribute to long-term difficulties maintaining healthy relationships, and lead to problems at school, work, or within the community.
People affected by trauma may develop coping mechanisms to help alleviate the emotional and/or physical pain they feel as a result of trauma. Oftentimes, these strategies involve unhealthy and risk-taking behaviors, such as unhealthy eating patterns, tobacco use, or drug and alcohol use. Although these unhealthy coping skills may provide immediate relief in the moment, they can also result in increased anxiety, social isolation, and chronic diseases.
Trauma also may impact people’s relationships. When a person experiences trauma, they may feel unsafe, betrayed, and/or have difficulty trusting others. This can lead to heightened emotions, such as anger or aggression, or a tendency toward shame, numbing, and/or isolation. This can result in further use of unhealthy coping skills.
Although some may naturally recover from trauma, others may discover effects of lasting trauma, which can cause a person to live with deep emotional pain, fear, confusion, or posttraumatic stress far after the event has passed.
In these circumstances, the support, guidance, and assistance of a therapist is fundamental to healing from trauma.
Some common indicators of unresolved trauma include:
- Avoiding specific locations, sights, situations, and sounds that serve as reminders of the event
- Anxiety, depression, numbness, or guilt
- Intrusive thoughts, nightmares or flashbacks
- Anger, irritability, and hypervigilance
- Aggressive, reckless behavior, including self-harm
- Sleep disturbances
Negative Mood and Cognition Symptoms
- Loss of interest in activities that were once considered enjoyable
- Difficulty remembering details of the distressing event
- Change in habits or behavior since the trauma
If you or someone you know matches the trauma symptoms listed above, I am confident that we can help and invite you to self-schedule a free consultation or send us an email at email@example.com for more information!
Our multidisciplinary team of trauma-informed clinicians use approaches grounded solidly in research to help you reshape the way trauma has caused you to view yourself, others, and the world. Let’s work together, and take back your sense of self, trust, safety, and power.