WHAT IS - Trauma?
What is trauma?
Trauma is a psychological, emotional response to a stressful/disturbing event or experience. This can refer to accidents, having an illness or injury, losing a loved one, going through a divorce, abuse, and in some far extreme case, rape, or torture. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), they define trauma as an emotional response to a terrible event. Immediately after the event, shock and denial are typical and long-term reactions can include unpredictable emotions, flashbacks, strained relationships and even physical symptoms like headaches or nausea.
How does trauma affect an individual’s life?
When it comes to trauma, one needs to understand that their world can become a lot less trusting and fearful, but a gentle reminder that trauma is individual, and it affects everyone differently. For example, some individuals may display symptoms associated with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but others have a more reserved response. So how trauma affects an individual can depend on many factors, including personality, characteristics of the individual, the type of event(s), developmental processes, the meaning of the trauma, and sociocultural factors. Some common reactions & symptoms can include exhaustion, confusion, sadness, anxiety, agitation, numbness, and dissociation. But it is also normal for individuals to have delayed responses to trauma such as repression, constant fatigue, sleep disorders, nightmares, fear of recurrence, anxiety flashbacks, and avoidance of emotions, sensations, or activities that are associated with the trauma. This can lead to emotional dysregulation, where trauma survivors have difficulty calming the intensity of their emotions such as anger, anxiety, sadness, and shame.
How does trauma affect relationships?
It is normal for individuals with trauma to have expectations of danger, betrayal, or potential harm within new or old relationships. They may feel vulnerable and confused about what is safe, and therefore it may be difficult to trust others, even those whom they trusted in the past. In addition to this, individuals may lose their sense of self as a result of intense shame or guilt. This can create tension within romantic and platonic relationships especially when they are currently struggling with loving themselves. Due to the feelings of guilt and shame, individuals may worry about burdening another person or feeling like they are unworthy of love. It is common for trauma survivors to feel emotionally numb and have trouble feeling or expressing positive emotions in a relationship, this too can affect their physical intimacy.
How to deal with Trauma?
On the bright side to all of this, there are many ways to deal with your trauma. Finding little tips and tricks can helps minimize isolation and restore a sense of hope within you!
· Be patient with yourself: having self-compassion or yourself during this time is key, take things day by day and don’t overexert yourself.
· Confide in someone you feel comfortable and safe around: it is important to find people or simply one person to fully open up to. Leaning on others for support can make the healing journey a lot easier.
· Try not to isolate: it is understandable that you may want to withdraw from others during this difficult time, but isolation usually makes things worse. Try to connect with others, or maybe even one person. Having that face-to-face time will help you heal, so try to make an effort to maintain your relationships and avoid spending too much time alone.
· Allow yourself to feel what you feel when you feel it: repressing emotions may only make matters worse later on. By acknowledging your feelings about the trauma as they arise and learning to accept them is a big part of the healing process.
· Seek professional help: if months have passed and your symptoms are only getting worse, consider finding a trauma -informed psychotherapist or psychologist who can offer you a safe relationship to discuss your trauma. This will help minimize isolation and guide you with coping strategies to heal.
Our therapists at Relationship Matters Therapy Centre can support you in your trauma healing.
Recommendations for Books on Trauma:
◦ What Happened to You? By Bruce D. Perry and Oprah Winfrey
◦ The Body Keeps Score by Bessel Van Der Kolk
◦ Whole Again by Jackson Mackenzie
◦ No Bad Parts by Richard C. Schwartz
◦ It Didn’t Start with You by Mark Wolynn
◦ Healing the Fragmented Selves of Trauma Survivors by Janina Fisher