Sometimes memories are delightful and bring you joy and comfort. Other times, they’re dark and stressful. Some memories are so severe and traumatic that they deeply affect you and your daily life. Traumatic experiences can cause an emotional or psychological response, making life difficult. Emotional and psychological trauma recovery is possible for a better, brighter future. A mental health professional can help you process your trauma and start healing.
Emotional and Psychological Trauma Explained
How do you know if you’re traumatized? Understanding emotional and psychological trauma is perhaps the first step to healing. Understanding how trauma can impact you and alter how your brain and body automatically respond to the world around you is essential.
“Understanding trauma and how your mind and body respond to it can help you better understand why things are happening to you and in your life,” said Sheena Miller, MA, LPC, MHSP, Clinical Manager at Integrative Life Center. “The trauma you experienced isn’t your fault, and your natural responses to it also are out of your control. It’s what you do next after recognizing symptoms of emotional trauma that helps restore your power and self efficacy.”
Emotional trauma is your body’s response to an extraordinarily stressful event, experience, or set of recurring experiences that leaves you stuck in a place that can affect your mental health and overall well-being.
Traumatic experiences include:
- Physical and sexual assault
- Domestic violence
- Emotional abuse
- Loss of a loved one
- Natural disasters
- Military combat
- Serious accidents and injuries – such as a car crash
- Ongoing stress – caused by chronic illness, racism, bullying, homelessness, etc
Trauma impacts people differently, so each person can respond differently, even to the same happening. Still, trauma can have a significant impact on self.
Common signs of emotional trauma:
- Feeling anxious or continuously stressed
- Flashbacks or nightmares about the traumatic event
- Being distrusting of others
- Numbness or disconnection
- Guilt or shame
- Extreme mood swings
- Fear or consistent feelings of being unsafe
- Feeling like you’re re-experiencing or reliving the trauma
- Relationship and attachment difficulties
- Feelings of loneliness and isolation
- Suicidal thoughts
When left untreated, emotional trauma can significantly impact your ability to function and your overall quality of life.
“Trauma shatters a person’s sense of safety. The goal of trauma treatment is to help that person re-establish safety and trust, so they can feel in control of themselves and their life again,” Sheena said.
What Not to Do While Experiencing the Effects of Trauma
When you experience emotional trauma, you may not understand what’s happening. You just know you’re having trouble dealing with life’s stressors, and sometimes your responses to situations may seem extreme. When you feel this way, you do whatever you can to cope with your emotions. But sometimes, the coping methods people choose may exacerbate the issues.
When experiencing emotional trauma, avoid:
- Isolating. Surround yourself with loved ones who support you and positively impact your healing journey. Don’t allow yourself to segregate away from those who love and care for you and your success. Trauma can already make you feel alone, so isolating yourself may confirm this feeling.
- Bottling Up Feelings. Your feelings are valid. Share your negative or positive feelings with someone you can trust. Talking about the traumatic experience and how you feel after it, is critical to healing.
- Ignoring Symptoms. Recognizing emotional trauma in yourself is difficult. But it’s important that you don’t ignore the symptoms. Allow yourself to be vulnerable with a trusted individual or a mental health professional and share what you are feeling.
- Using Alcohol or Substances to Cope. Many people turn to substances to cope with trauma symptoms. Unfortunately, these adverse coping methods can create long-term physical effects on your mind and body and can result in addiction.
“Many people don’t understand what’s happening to them when they experience emotional trauma,” Sheena stated. “They may not recognize that what happened to them was traumatic or they don’t even remember the traumatic event. So, they try to cope with their feelings in any way that helps them. Unfortunately, this approach often leads to adverse coping methods that can create other problems, like addiction or compulsive behaviors.”
Navigating Emotional and Psychological Trauma Recovery
Some actions allow you to feel more in control of your healing journey. These coping strategies can help when times are difficult, lonely, or emotional. Using these methods can positively impact you by assisting you in re-establishing safety and control in your life.
Positive coping strategies include:
- Being Patient With Yourself. Coping with trauma is challenging. Remember to be kind and patient with yourself as you take the necessary steps.
- Confronting Feelings. Feelings can be wonderful and complex, but opening up and sharing those feelings can deepen friendships and help you feel less lonely.
- Establishing a Healthy Routine. Your body and mind are connected, so what affects one also impacts the other. Establishing health routines can help you as you heal from emotional trauma. A healthy routine means getting plenty of sleep, eating nourishing food, and moving your body every day.
- Making Time for Relaxation. Find things you enjoy, like reading a book, playing with pets, or creating art that allow you to focus on joy and help you relax. Give yourself the freedom to discover new activities you might not have considered.
- Talking to Loved Ones. You don’t have to face this difficult path alone. Open up and share with people you trust, and allow them a chance to support you and your healing journey. Having someone to talk with can greatly improve your stress levels. Being around others can lift your spirits even if you don’t talk about the trauma.
- Seeking Professional Help. If you have symptoms of emotional trauma, you may want to seek help from a mental health professional. They can guide you as you heal from what happened to you.
“Emotional trauma is unlikely to disappear or go away on its own,” Sheena said. “You need professional mental health support to guide you through identifying, understanding, and processing what happened to you. Only then can you truly begin to heal.”
Treatments for Trauma
Finding the right treatment for trauma means understanding what trauma treatment can include and exploring your options to determine what might work best for you. There are many therapeutic techniques, some even specifically designed for trauma treatment. While you can’t recover fully from trauma, you can learn how to process your feelings surrounding the trauma and heal.
Common trauma treatments to consider:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. CBT is a type of talk therapy that involves identifying and challenging unhelpful thoughts. CBT can help you develop healthy coping strategies to reduce symptoms.
- Exposure Therapy. This therapy can help you face trauma by exposing you to the source of your fears in a safe, controlled environment. Exposure can help you break your pattern of avoidance and eventually overcome these fears.
- EMDR. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing uses eye movements or other forms of rhythmic, left-right stimulation to treat trauma. The survivor focuses on an upsetting memory while following a therapist’s hand or a light as it moves back and forth. This approach helps the person reprocess the memory in a new way.
- Brainspotting. Brainspotting works by identifying, processing, and releasing core neurophysiological sources of trauma. A practitioner will guide your eye movements until physical signals reveal a brain spot. The aim is to identify trauma by examining how it manifests in your body. Focusing on each brain spot, your mind must deal with trauma and begin healing.
These are just some of the treatments available through a credible mental health professional dedicated to trauma recovery.
Emotional and Psychological Trauma Recovery at ILC
Emotional and psychological trauma recovery might seem challenging but with the right mental health professional and treatment plan, you can overcome trauma and live your most authentic life. Trauma treatment at Integrative Life Center can help you. Contact ILC to begin your healing journey.