Any age can experience traumatic situations, which can have a long-lasting impact on your physical and emotional health. While every person’s experience is different, there are similar reasons and many share symptoms such as anxiety, flashbacks, and disturbed sleep that are associated with post-traumatic stress disorder.

There are medical professionals that disagree on what trauma actually is. Discussions over the definition of trauma are always changing in light of fresh data as researchers and therapists gain more knowledge.

Many people may overcome these negative consequences, enjoy an enhanced quality of life, and progress toward recovery with the right care and social support, particularly via trauma therapy.

What is Trauma?

Trauma is the term used to describe how you react to an experience that overwhelms you mentally. This reaction frequently includes shock, denial, and behavioral, mental, and physical changes.

Trauma is an occurrence that you see as dangerous or potentially fatal. It negatively impacts your mental, physical, emotional, social, and spiritual health in a long-lasting way.

Trauma is usually linked to important incidents like assaults, whether physical or sexual, violence, or mishaps. However, it can also include reactions to recurrent incidents, such as persistent emotional abuse or neglect as a youngster.

Not every person who has gone through a terrible incident will be affected for a very long time. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) affects about 20% of those who have experienced a traumatic incident, and many more may still exhibit subthreshold PTSD symptoms.

Complex Trauma

Repeated trauma over time can have a compounding effect. We refer to this as complicated trauma.

Childhood trauma is frequently linked to complex trauma. Trauma in your early years may have a lasting effect on your relationships, worldview, and sense of self.

‘Fight-or-Flight’

A “fight-or-flight” acute stress reaction is triggered by dangerous situations, which raises blood pressure, heart rate, and produces the stress hormone cortisol. They also trigger the immune system’s inflammatory response.

Many survivors are jittery and start scanning for danger all the time. Continuously feeling on edge might disrupt regular routines that occur naturally when you feel protected. It’s possible that you’re too afraid to sleep. Furthermore, because your attention is directed on potential dangers, your digestive system will frequently neglect digestion. You may then experience frequent bowel motions.

Your body is ready for the eventuality that it will need to protect itself.

Recall avoidance is also prevalent following a stressful experience. Sometimes the event is too upsetting to digest, so shutting out emotionally or numbing oneself with drink is the only option.

Experts in mental health note that most individuals exhibit a mix of these reactions, which humans have developed to try to survive.

However, after a month, if they persist or worsen, that indicates post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). If you have already encountered trauma, particularly as a kid or over time, or if mental health issues run in your family, you run a higher risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Your body is ready for the eventuality that it will need to protect itself.

What are the mental and physical effects of Trauma?

Trauma may have an impact on your physical, emotional, and social well-being, among other aspects of your life.

Excessive stress triggers the fight-or-flight or freeze response in the neurological system, overwhelming the body and mind.

Post-traumatic stress symptoms are the result of an overloaded nervous system, which prevents your body and mind from properly processing the traumatic events as they occur.

Following trauma, common symptoms include 

  • Intrusive thoughts, which might include nightmares or flashbacks.
  • Avoiding people, places, or things that bring up memories of the trauma
  • Hypervigilance: a state of acute awareness of danger; 
  • Being easily startled or “jumpy”; 
  • Being activated by triggers that bring up memories of the trauma; 
  • Changes in self-perception, such as thinking of yourself as “bad” or experiencing excessive guilt or shame; 
  • A narrow window of tolerance: a state in which you feel overwhelmed easily or find it difficult to control your emotions

Your physical health might also manifest symptoms of traumatic stress. Somatic symptoms are effects that are dependent on the body and include:

  • Persistent chronic pains
  • Sleep issues
  • Headaches and 
  • Chest pains

How common is Trauma?

  • About 70% adults have experienced a traumatic event at least once. Not every person who goes through tragedy will have PTSD.
  • Of these, up to 20% fit the description of having PTSD.
  • PTSD affects women twice as frequently as it does males.
  • The risk of developing PTSD varies based on the trauma. The risk is especially high after rape (49%), physical assault (around 32%), and other sexual assault (around 24%).

Causes and types of Trauma

Trauma is more about your response to it than the actual occurrence. However, certain situations are more prone than others to result in trauma.

Events that can lead trauma

Types of Trauma

  • Emotional trauma: The emotions that are left behind by painful experiences. Emotional trauma, which is typified by a person feeling uncomfortable in their own skin, can change the way our brains work and result in a generalized pessimism.
  • Complex trauma is the result of several stressful incidents that may have long-term effects.
  • Secondary trauma: Also known as vicarious trauma, secondary trauma refers to being a witness to trauma. Witnessing a traumatic event can impact your emotional health and is deserving of support, empathy, and compassion.

‘Big T’ and ‘little t’ Trauma

Traumas are divided into “big T” and “little t” incidents by some therapists. PTSD is typically linked to “Big T” experiences, such as sexual assault and battle. Bullying, emotional abuse, and significant life transitions are examples of “little t” traumas.

It is debatable, nevertheless, whether or not to classify traumatic events into these groups. Repeated exposure to “little t” traumas over time may result in emotional injury comparable to that caused by exposure to “big T” traumas, particularly in the event of complex trauma and when encountered during childhood.

All emotional scars are worthy of compassion and understanding, and each incident that causes damage should also require acknowledgment and assistance.

Unprocessed Trauma in the body:

When you experience trauma, your body perceives danger and triggers a variety of alarms that, although crucial at the time, may not be the best for you in the long run.

In an attempt to transcend the experience that rendered us powerless, we get trapped in repeating it, which causes flashbacks, nightmares, intrusive thoughts, and reactivation. Stress and immunological reactions then resume their cycle.

Muscles frequently involuntarily contract when psychological stress is stored in the body. This can result in musculoskeletal discomfort, fatigue, and tension headaches, as well as perhaps fibromyalgia, which is pain in the muscles and soft tissues throughout the body. The condition of chronic pain is associated with past and recurring trauma.

Patients with ulcerative colitis or irritable bowel syndrome who are not responding to therapy are frequently seen by providers. Later on, they could discover that the patient has psychological discomfort that is underlying and either causing or exacerbating the GI tract irritation. Over time, IBS might result from frequent bowel movements, which are typical of the fight-or-flight response.

It is possible for those who already suffer from illnesses like tinnitus (ear ringing) to experience exacerbation of their symptoms.

Reluctantly attempting to escape painful memories might backfire. You can dismiss this event, yet it remains because it can never be completely obliterated. It will just show up in a number of various forms until you confront it.

The long-term effects affect every part of the body. Inflammatory stimulation of the immune system is linked to autoimmune diseases, skin, neurological system, memory, and cardiovascular problems, and may accelerate ageing. People with post-traumatic stress disorder have a higher chance of developing 41 distinct autoimmune illnesses, including multiple sclerosis, psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, and Crohn’s disease, according to a seminal 2018 research.

What mental health conditions are associated with trauma?

Trauma is associated with various health conditions, including:

PTSD

While 20% of people who suffer trauma will fit the diagnostic criteria, not everyone will go on to acquire PTSD.

Dissociative Disorders

Trauma-related dissociation is a typical reaction. 90% of dissociative disorders have a possible trauma connection. Among the dissociative disorders are:

Borderline Personality Disorder

A 2021 research found that between 30% and 90% of instances of borderline personality disorder (BPD) have a history of childhood maltreatment and neglect.

Depression

Depression is a typical reaction to trauma and is characterized, among other symptoms, by a loss of energy and feelings of worthlessness.

Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety symptoms, such terror and dread, frequently coexist with PTSD symptoms. Anxiety might occur when anything triggers a memory of a traumatic event. Trauma-related anxiety disorders can strike certain persons.

How to heal from Trauma?

Diagnosis

Should you exhibit signs of trauma, you can be identified as having a PTSD diagnosis. It’s crucial to keep in mind, though, that not every traumatic event will result in a trauma-related diagnosis. Your doctor or mental health expert will inquire about the symptoms you are having and the duration of the trauma when you speak with them.

Depending on the specifics of your symptoms, your doctor may conduct a diagnostic evaluation to determine whether you meet the criteria for an adjustment disorder, trauma or stressor-related disorder, or both, if you are still experiencing symptoms some time after the event and they significantly interfere with your day-to-day functioning.

Treatment

It might be beneficial to speak with a therapist if you have suffered trauma. In addition to offering support, a therapist may help you make sense of the symptoms you are dealing with.

The course of treatment will be determined by the symptoms the trauma has caused you to experience. It might include self-care, medicine, psychotherapy, or a mix of these. Treatments frequently concentrate on treating any accompanying mental health issues, such as anxiety, sadness, or PTSD, as well as assisting patients in integrating their emotional reaction to the trauma.

Psychotherapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) may be used as part of treatment to assist patients in analyzing feelings and ideas associated with trauma and in substituting realistic thinking for pessimistic thinking.

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is an effective method that combines CBT components with movements of the eyes or body to break the associated body reactions of being in fight or flight and a specific memory.

Medications

There are drugs that could be beneficial as part of your treatment if you have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) due to a traumatic experience. These drugs might consist of:

Antidepressants, such as serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) like sertraline-containing Zoloft and paroxetine-containing Paxil, have CFIA approval for the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Anti-anxiety drugs, such as Ativan (lorazepam) and Valium (diazepam), are benzodiazepines.

Coping

It is crucial to minimize bad coping mechanisms, such as abstaining from alcohol or drugs, and to maximize beneficial coping mechanisms, such as seeking out social support after going through a traumatic incident.

Here are a few strategies to aid with trauma processing and coping:

  • Acknowledge and validate your emotions. It’s crucial that you don’t attempt to ignore your sentiments, even if you don’t have to force yourself to express them to other people.
  • Locate a support group where you may speak with others who have experienced such things.
  • Allow yourself time to process your emotions. These emotions will not be gone quickly, meanwhile, be kind with yourself.
  • Observe your physical well-being. Eat healthily on a regular basis, make an effort to get adequate sleep, and exercise frequently.
  • Spend time with your loved ones. Isolating oneself can make it more difficult to deal with the repercussions of trauma, even if it can seem good to be alone. Give yourself permission to rely on those who love and support you.

Making a timetable or routine on a regular basis might also be beneficial. A person’s life can be severely disrupted by traumatic incidents. They might give someone the impression that life is uncertain and out of control. Having a regular routine can help you live a more predictable and orderly life.

Maintaining a schedule can assist with anxiety from other causes in your life, even while it won’t eliminate stress and anxiety from the traumatic incident. When creating a timetable, be sure to block out time for self-care activities. Avoid using your schedule as a means of just staying busy, such as devoting all of your time to work, which will leave you with little time to reflect on the traumatic experience.

Parting Notes

We at The Insight Clinic recognize that seeking help with bravery is the first step towards recovery. Our skilled group of therapists specializes in providing compassionate and knowledgeable guidance to people on their road toward trauma recovery. We offer a secure, accepting environment where you may examine your experiences, deal with your feelings, and create useful coping mechanisms. Make an appointment with us right now to start the process of regaining your well-being.

Take the first step towards a happier, healthier you by booking your online therapy session now. Our compassionate therapists are here to support you every step of the way.

Trauma

Getting Help at The Insight Clinic

Getting Help at The Insight Clinic

Getting Help at The Insight Clinic

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