There are many things that can cause trauma in a person’s life. Bullying, violence, physical abuse in adulthood and even early childhood abuse are all traumatic experiences that people go through, and they can make navigating through everyday situations challenging and complicated.
Psychological (or emotional) trauma – also known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – is damage or injury to someone’s psyche after experiencing an extremely frightening or distressing event, and it may result in challenges in functioning or coping normally after the event.
Each person will experience trauma in a unique way, and as a consequence, each person will react differently. Some people will go on to develop signs and symptoms of trauma early on after an event has transpired, while others might be affected by past experiences later in their lives.
Whatever is the case, traumatic experiences can frequently involve life-threatening events, and many scenarios where trauma occurs (especially ones where the experience is completely unique) can leave a person feeling isolated and alone.
It’s important to remember that, when it comes to trauma, it’s not just objective facts that determine how traumatic an experience is. An overwhelming and stressful experience for one person might be an everyday experience for someone else. The level of emotional response is subjective to the person. Oftentimes, the more helplessness one feels in any given situation, the higher the level of traumatization they’ll experience.
Signs and symptoms of trauma
As we’ve said before, each person is uniquely affected by each individual experience, so how they are affected will differ from person to person. But, with this said, there are some common signs and symptoms to watch for, and many people will experience a mix of strong emotional and psychological reactions following a traumatic event.
Some cognitive signs to watch for include:
- Nightmares, insomnia and broken sleeping patterns
- Intrusive thoughts of the event that may occur out of the blue
- Visual images of the event
- Loss of memory and a lack of concentration
- Mood swings
- An overwhelming sense of fear about certain activities
- Obsessive and compulsive behaviors
- Detachment from other people and emotions
- Emotional escapism and numbing
- Depression and anxiety
- Irrational thinking and irritability
- Panic attacks
- Possible survivors’ guilt if the person survived something when someone else passed
Some physical symptoms of trauma include:
- Edginess and easily startled
- Severe fatigue and exhaustion
- Chronic muscle patterns
- Sexual dysfunction
- Changes in sleeping and eating patterns
- Vague complaints of aches and pains throughout the body
- Extreme alertness; always on the lookout for warnings of potential danger
A person’s behavior can also be affected because of traumatic experiences. For example, someone who is experiencing trauma will likely choose to avoid activities that trigger memories of the event. Social isolation, withdrawal from social circles, a lack of emotional communication and a loss of interest in experiences and activities that were once enjoyable, could all be signs that someone is experiencing trauma.
Mental health and trauma
Unfortunately, trauma has a severe knock-on effect on a person’s entire life, and more often than not, those who attend rehab for trauma are experiencing dual diagnosis – they are suffering from other things like mental health concerns. Treating the whole patient, then, rather than the individual signs and symptoms of trauma, is imperative to helping a person conquer their trauma for good.
Traumatic stress can lead to many mental health issues, including:
- Severe anxiety
- Feelings of shame, hopelessness and despair
- Extreme stress
- Self-destructive behaviors
Trauma can, of course, also lead to the formation or many negative habits as a means to escape psychological feelings that might be present. Many people who are suffering from trauma also may suffer from:
- Alcoholism or substance abuse
- Sex or process addiction
- Impulsive behaviors like gambling
- Eating disorders
To overcome these things, and to get to the root cause of a traumatic event, it’s important to seek help as early as possible. In a rehab environment, a person can receive tailored treatment that helps them not only overcome their trauma, but that also addresses the reactionary mental health and addictions that may be present, too.
When to seek professional help for trauma
It takes time to recover from trauma, especially if co-occurring issues are present. Not only does one have to conquer the root cause of their trauma, they also have to overcome their addictions, too. On top of this, everybody heals at their own pace, and it’s important to recognize that it’s a process that occurs over time, rather than a quick-fix cure.
It can be difficult to know when exactly to seek professional help for trauma. But, if you are experiencing any of the following, it’s often a sure-fire time that you need to seek professional help. Are you:
- Having trouble functioning at home or work?
- Suffering from severe fear, anxiety or depression?
- Unable to form close relationships?
- Experiencing terrifying memories, nightmares or flashbacks?
- Avoiding anything that reminds you of the trauma?
- Emotionally numb and disconnected from others?
- Using alcohol or drugs to feel better?
Working through trauma alone can be scary and intimidating, and often, it can be difficult to understand exactly what you’re feeling without the right professional help. That’s why the help of an experienced trauma specialist is essential.
Treatment for trauma
To heal properly from phycological or emotional trauma, you’ll need courage enough to face up to your past experiences that you might be hiding from. As difficult as this sounds, the right environment can allow you to uncover these experiences in a safe and comfortable way.
A trauma specialist may use a variety of different therapy approaches in your treatment, including:
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
Cognitive behavioral therapy allows you to evaluate and properly process your feelings in a guided environment with a specialist therapist. They’ll help you uncover and understand why you feel a certain way and help you to reframe your thinking.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
EMDR uses elements of CBT and back-and-forth eye movement processing to help a person ‘unfreeze’ their traumatic memories that they may have buried deep inside them.
There are many other treatments that help people work through trauma, including exposure therapy, one-on-one psychotherapy and holistic wellness practices, too, like art therapy, yoga and meditation.
To find out more about how Tikvah Lake Recovery can help you or a loved one uncover and work through their trauma, contact an expert today.