When a traumatic experience occurs, it’s normal to feel scared or horrified by it. In other situations, you may experience trauma without even recognizing it as a disturbing event. In either case, you may have symptoms of emotional trauma that impact your everyday life. It’s essential to understand these symptoms and recognize them in yourself, so you can heal.
The Truth About Emotional Trauma
Emotional trauma is not rare. About 60% of men and 50% of women experience at least one traumatic event in their lifetime. These traumatic experiences can potentially lead to the development of emotional trauma disorders. The event could happen one time, such as in the case of a car wreck or the death of a loved one, or trauma exposure can be continuous and ongoing, like bullying, neglect, or racism.
Many traumatic events are obvious, such as a shooting, experiencing war, or being in a natural disaster. But some events that can cause trauma are so subtle that you may not even realize how big of a negative impact they had on you. For example, you may have been ignored or emotionally invalidated as a child.
Trauma can affect anyone, and the lasting impacts of it on your psychological health can cause you to struggle to live a happy life. If you realize you’re experiencing symptoms of emotional trauma, you may want to seek mental health treatment to help you manage your feelings. You can heal from trauma with the help of a mental health professional.
“Trauma doesn’t discriminate against who it impacts,” said Dr. Julie Eberwein, Executive Director at Integrative Life Center. “It can happen to anyone at any time. Emotional trauma is unlikely to disappear without mental health intervention, and it can have devastating effects if left untreated.”
The Symptoms of Emotional Trauma
The symptoms of emotional trauma may differ for people because trauma exposure and impact are different for everyone. Two people can be exposed to the same traumatic event and have drastically different responses. So, it’s essential to understand the myriad of potential symptoms.
“Just like no two people are the same, no two responses to traumatic experiences are identical,” Dr. Eberwein said. “One person may have severe emotional trauma while another is completely unaffected by the same traumatic event. Because people are different, they must receive individualized mental health care.”
Four categories of emotional trauma symptoms are physical, psychological, behavioral, and cognitive.
1. Physical Symptoms
You might think that emotional trauma only impacts your brain, but your brain and body exist holistically, so trauma also can impact your body and how it functions. The physical symptoms of trauma impact how you physically feel.
Physical symptoms of emotional trauma include:
- Excessive sleeping
- Sensitivity to smells and loud noises
- Being easily startled
- Bodily aches and pains
- Sexual dysfunction
- Changes in appetite
- Rapid heartbeat
- Gastrointestinal concerns
2. Psychological Symptoms
The psychological symptoms of emotional trauma impact how you feel mentally. You may just feel like something is off, or it’s possible that you feel physically and mentally exhausted, although you aren’t certain why.
Psychological symptoms of emotional trauma include:
- Anxiety attacks
- Dissociating (feeling disconnected from your own body)
- Suicidal ideation
- Feelings of impending danger
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Loss of enjoyment
- Strong feelings at unusual times or places
3. Behavioral Symptoms
Behavioral symptoms of emotional trauma manifest themselves in how you act and behave, alone and among others. These are symptoms that impact how you act in the world. These behaviors are likely new or more extreme following the traumatic experience.
Behavioral symptoms include:
- Angry outbursts
- Disruptive actions
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Drug use
- Withdrawing from relationships
- An inability to complete tasks
- Neglecting responsibilities
- Risky behaviors
Cognitive symptoms impact the processes of thinking and reasoning. These impact how you see the world and your role in it. Trauma shatters a person’s feeling of safety. So often, people feel like the world is an unsafe place, and they’re constantly in danger after a traumatic event.
These symptoms include:
- Memory loss
- Trouble concentrating
Now that you understand the symptoms of emotional trauma, you can better understand whether any of them are affecting you. It’s essential to be honest with yourself while you evaluate these symptoms and whether they apply to you. But what do you do if you see any of these symptoms in yourself?
What to Do When You Spot Signs of Emotional Trauma
If you experience any emotional trauma symptoms, it’s time to take action to heal.
“Left untreated, emotional trauma will only worsen,” said Dr. Eberwein. “Not only can trauma symptoms get worse, but the person also may develop other mental health concerns or form adverse coping mechanisms that will also need to be addressed.”
When you spot signs of emotional trauma, take the following steps:
- Get Help. Seek a qualified mental health professional trained to help you understand your trauma, its effect on you, and how to work through it.
- Communicate Your Feelings. When speaking with a mental health professional, be honest and communicate how you feel. They can’t properly help you if you don’t communicate openly.
- Develop a Plan of Action With a Qualified Professional. After your mental health professional understands your trauma and how it’s affecting you, they’ll help you create a plan that works for you. This plan is to help you feel better physically, psychologically, behaviorally, and cognitively long-term.
- Understand that Healing Takes Time. Working through trauma is a continuous process that doesn’t happen overnight. Following a plan of action will take time, but healing is worth it.
- Stay the Course. Even when times get tough and you want to give up, stay the course and keep healing your emotional trauma. Healing isn’t always easy, but it leads to a more fulfilling, less stressful life.
Heal at Integrative Life Center
Discovering you have emotional trauma and recognizing the symptoms can be challenging. Although it can be difficult to reach out for help, you will feel safe and comfortable as you heal at Integrative Life Center. Heal in every aspect of your life — physically, mentally, and spiritually. Contact Integrative Life Center to start your healing journey.