Healing from trauma can be a long and debilitating process, leading to confusion, feelings of helplessness/hopelessness, self-doubt, difficulty making decisions, and trusting one’s instincts. Psychological trauma can leave you struggling with upsetting emotions, memories, and anxiety that doesn’t seem to go away, often feelings as if you are reliving the moment or event over and over again. Person’s that have experienced a traumatic event, or have a history of abuse may feel numb, disconnected, and unable to trust other people, making it difficult to establish and maintain relationships. Unfortunately, negative events can make it extremely difficult for a lot of survivors of trauma to express emotions, expose vulnerabilities, and refrain from self-isolating behaviors.
Emotional and psychological trauma usually result from extraordinarily stressful and or devastating events that creates doubt in one’s ability to protect himself/herself, remain safe, prompting the individual to feel powerless to control the world around them. Traumatic experiences often involve a threat to life or safety, but any situation that leaves you feeling overwhelmed and alone can be traumatic, even if it doesn’t involve physical harm. It is important to note witnessing a violent crime or event can be a traumatic event for people as well. Vicarious trauma can occur for many different reasons, such as, witnessing violent or graphic images, sounds, resonant details—which we now know can both influence and color our worldview.
Family, friends and colleagues of people who have experienced abuse or have been exposed to trauma can struggle with distressing feelings of powerlessness, guilt, or shock, especially if there was a child involved. Unfortunately, it is not the objective facts that determine whether or not an event is traumatic, but your subjective emotional experience to the event. The more frightened and powerless we feel following an event or experience, the more likely we are to be traumatized.
Sources of Trauma Can Include:
· Sexual assault, rape, or molestation
· Accident (both natural and unnatural)
· Threat or perception of threat
· Severe illness or injury
· Witnessing a violent act
· The death of a loved one
· Domestic violence
· Unstable or unsafe environment
· Separation from parent
· Terrorist attack
· Hostage situation
Individual response to an event or situation is both unique and different, hence, no two people respond entirely in the same way. Although, we can be present at the same event at the same time our reactions will be just as unique as we are. Risk factors can make some people more susceptible to emotional and psychological trauma than others. We are more likely to be traumatized by a stressful experience if we have a history of trauma or abuse, suffering from severe stress, suffered a severe loss, etc. Unfortunately, childhood trauma increases the risk of future trauma or the re-emergence of negative symptoms in adulthood. Trauma experienced during childhood can have a lengthy or often lifelong effect on our overall mental health. When childhood trauma is not resolved, a sense of fear and helplessness carries over into adulthood, setting the stage for further trauma.
Potential Emotional & Psychological Responses to Traumatic Events Can Include:
· Intense fear
· Mood swings
· Confusion/processing challenges
· Flashes (seeing vivid images of the event repeatedly in your head)
· Difficulty eating or sleeping
· Feeling disconnected or numb
· Feelings of hopelessness/helplessness
Adjusting to a traumatic event or experience can be a difficult and lengthy process. However, recovery is possible. Persons that have experienced trauma can regain control of their lives, leading to more confidence, enriching relationships, and healthier functioning.
Tips For Overcoming Trauma Include:
· Accepting what happened
· Allowing yourself time to adjust
· Seeking and accepting support
· Communicating your feelings
· Avoidance of making major life decisions immediately following a traumatic event
· Do not self-isolate
· Take care of your overall health, both physical and emotional
· Exploring treatment options to help you manage negative feelings associated with the trauma
The process of working through trauma can be very scary as well as painful, potentially exposing one’s self to re-traumatizing. It is for this reason it may be necessary to seek and secure the help of a trained mental health professional. Survivors of trauma can use therapy as a springboard to help them reconcile negative feelings associated with the trauma, form an acceptance of the event, and develop effective coping skills to manage future stressors.