The word “trauma” seems to be everywhere. The term’s increase in common usage is a positive sign of mental health awareness and its importance to living a healthy life. But with so much information swirling around, how do you know if you’re traumatized? An accurate understanding of trauma can help you identify where you are and how to move forward.
Trauma looks different for every person. It’s your body’s individualized response to an extraordinarily stressful event, experience, or set of reoccurring experiences that leaves you stuck in a place that can affect your mental health and overall well-being for a long time.
Traumatic experiences frequently involve threats to life or safety and trigger a survival response. Once the initial reaction subsides, people experiencing trauma are left with the feeling that the world is an unsafe place.
Causes of trauma include:
- One-Time Events. Accidents, life-altering injuries, assault, or an unexpected threat to stability (particularly during childhood) are common events that lead to trauma.
- Relentless Stress. This category deals more with everyday life. Living in a crime-ridden neighborhood, battling or supporting someone with chronic illness, racism, being subjected to repeated bullying or abuse, or neglect can induce trauma.
- Extraordinary Circumstances. The sudden death of a loved one, a painful breakup, or extreme disappointment can also lead to trauma.
Since trauma is such an intensely personal experience, it’s vital to know how it manifests itself to determine if you have lasting traumatic effects.
How Do You Know If You’re Traumatized?
Most people think they would know if they are traumatized. But it’s not that simple. Some signs are more subtle or can happen long after the event or experience, making connecting the cause and effects difficult.
Signs to be aware of include:
- Uncontrollable Thoughts. Do you find it difficult to redirect your thoughts to your current surroundings and circumstances? Do they spiral to an anxiety-ridden place where you feel helpless? Trauma can present itself in this way.
- Flashbacks. Do certain sounds, sights, smells, or locations take you back to the incident? Is your daily life disrupted by haunting memories or nightmares? Any strong reaction that doesn’t seem connected to your present life could be an effect of trauma.
- Loneliness. Persistent feelings of loneliness and failure are frequent symptoms of trauma.
- Overreacting. Do you always seem on guard? Do you startle easily? Do you panic when small things don’t go according to plan? These could be signs of trauma.
These common signs and countless others persist even when you try to move past them. Trauma takes away a person’s sense of choice, said Carmen Dominguez, Executive Clinical Director at Integrative Life Center. So, she said, it’s important for treatment to help that person regain control of themselves.
“Clients need to experience therapeutic relationships that make room for authenticity and mutuality while fostering trauma-informed considerations such as transparency, collaboration, cultural humidity, voice choice, and self-agency,” she continued.
Healing From Trauma
The great news is that through therapeutic relationships and proven techniques, you can heal from trauma and live a happy, healthy life.
According to Carmen, there’s no one way to treat trauma because everyone’s experience is different. But there are some proven techniques to help you on your journey.
Healthy bodies tend to cope better with trauma-induced stress than those that are fatigued and run down. Getting plenty of quality is sleep is an essential way to look after your health. Traumatic events can cause sleep disturbances that can exhaust your mind and body. This issue only exacerbates your symptoms. Try to go to sleep around the same time each night in a distraction-free environment and aim to get at least seven hours of rest.
Avoiding drugs and alcohol, which people often use to mask trauma symptoms temporarily, can help lessen your feeling of anxiety and isolation. And eating a well-balanced diet along with plenty of exercise can give you energy and boost your mood.
Trauma can make those experiencing it want to retreat, leading to feelings of isolation and loneliness. Reaching out to loved ones for support can be a lifeline. They can act as trusted confidantes with whom you can share your thoughts and feelings.
Support groups with people who have similar experiences can help you feel less alone. They can also give you ideas for coping with your feelings and moving past your trauma.
Getting involved in community organizations can remind you of the good you do and give you a sense of purpose, and making new friends can broaden your experiences and social circle.
Seeking Professional Help.
If your symptoms don’t ease and you can’t seem to find a way forward, trained professionals might be your best path to recovery.
“There are many paths to healing. However, the destination to one’s inherit worth is of most importance. We want to guide clients back to their inherit worth, to the intrinsic wisdom that is within them,” Dominguez concluded.
The negative emotional affect resulting from trauma manifests itself in many ways. There is no “typical” response to a traumatic event or experience. And people respond differently to the same traumatic happening. So, if you think you may be traumatized, it’s critical to seek professional help. Trauma response is unlikely to go away on its own.
If you or a loved one are experiencing the effects of trauma, ILC is here to help. Contact us today to find out what treatment options are best for you.