Trauma is a word that is now very common in our world. In our current world, there are so many things occurring in daily life that can easily overwhelm us. From school shootings to climate changes to natural disasters to death, there are no shortages of triggers to our coping systems.
Traumatic experiences are prevalent now. I’ll even venture to say that daily living experiences are now much more complex. In an ever-increasing technological world with consistently shrinking boundaries, it is quite easy to overwhelm our coping systems. There is a constant flooding of information in daily life, and much of that information is often framed negatively.
What is Trauma?
Trauma is an emotional response to an event. As listed above, an event maybe a severe car accident, experiencing a tornado or hurricane (natural disaster), witnessing a crime, or being involved in a crime – for example witnessing a murder or being raped/assaulted.
Some events are repetitive. For example, abuse and assault are frequently repetitive. These kinds of traumatic events cause complex trauma as each event increases the layers of emotional responses. Other types of complex trauma may also include violence, poverty, and various types of discrimination.
We have learned that two people can experience the same event and have completely different responses to the event. Hence not everyone who experiences trauma will develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Some individuals will experience traumatic events and find ways to cope that eventually allow them to re-establish their equilibriums. And some individuals will experience difficulties regulating themselves. There are no right or wrong ways about this.
Many factors go into play here. These may include:
· Protective factors
· Family history
· Stress Management
· Brain development
· Coping skills
· Hormone levels
· Personal history
Following the witnessing or experiencing of a traumatic event, there are often common responses. Emotional responses that people experience may include fear, sadness, anger, doubt, denial, and anger. Physical responses may include vomiting, nausea, changes in sleep and eating, and digestive changes.
People will often experience psychological changes as well. These may include an increase in anxiety, depressive symptoms, emotional reactivity, changes in worldview, decrease in self-confidence, loss of appetite, difficulty managing daily life chores/responsibilities, increased destructive behaviors, increased substance use as well as changes in interpersonal relationships.
These changes are normal in that they are responses to an event. Behaviors usually reduce as weeks pass and individuals learn to cope with the event(s). When the behaviors do not decrease and begin to affect the way people function, then disorders such as PTSD become a concern.
Oftentimes with trauma, people try to push away the memories of the event because they are too painful. This causes increased denial. For some, symptoms such as nightmares and flashbacks are constant reminders of things they want to forget. This increases avoidance. The cliched saying, “The only way out, is through,” is vital in healing trauma.
In working with trauma, individuals must learn how to make these past painful events part of their life story. The hard part has already been done in that they have survived these painful events. It is essential to develop a new narrative that reconciles the past and practices radical acceptance of these past events. Individuals can be taught in therapy how to make these past memories integrated into the present version of themselves while also developing key skills and tools to create a new narrative of themselves to help them move forward.
If you have experienced trauma and are struggling to move forward, do not hesitate to contact me today to schedule a 15-minute consultation to see if we can work together to help you move forward.