Editor’s Note: This is the second in a month-long series on mental health. This week’s feature discusses trauma.
What is Trauma?
Trauma is an emotional response following a frightening, surprising or life-threatening event. It involves a risk to your physical and emotional safety and well-being. Trauma can be physical (War, physical or sexual abuse, car crash, living through a natural disaster) or emotional (having someone threaten to kill you, intense grief, witnessing a terrifying event).
What are the different types of Trauma?
Acute Trauma: This results from a single stressful or dangerous event.
Chronic trauma: Is a result of repeated and prolonged exposure to a highly stressful events (child abuse, war, bullying, domestic violence).
Complex trauma: Can develop following exposure to multiple traumatic events.
Secondary Trauma or Vicarious Trauma: This is a form of trauma that occurs as a result of hearing about a traumatic event, or having a significant relationship with someone who has been impacted by a trauma (Therapists, nurses or other healthcare workers, police officers).
How many people experience Trauma?
It is estimated that 60-75% of people in North America experience a traumatic event at some point.
How do I know if I am experiencing Trauma symptoms?
Trauma is different for everyone. Some individuals may have emotional outbursts, find it difficult to cope with how they are feeling, or withdraw from others around them. Other’s will experience flashbacks where one feels as though they are reliving the traumatic event, or have nightmares. A person can experience hyperarousal which is when someone feels as though they are in a constant state of alertness making it difficult to experience a sense of calming with a disturbance in their sleep. Symptoms of trauma are experienced both physically and emotionally.
Emotional symptoms: anger, fear, sadness, shame, confusion, anxiety, depression, irritability, difficulty concentrating/focusing, disconnected or numb, guilt, hopelessness.
Physical symptoms: Insomnia or nightmares, feeling tired, easily startled, difficulty concentrating, racing heartbeat aches and pains, muscle tension, headaches, upset stomach.
Why is there such a strong connection between the emotional mind and the physical body?
Our nervous systems within our brain have been created so that we can feel things such as love, affection and safety around others. But if we detect danger, other parts of our nervous system (our brain) kick in which controls our “fight or flight” response, or our response to shut down and conserve energy. The brain responds in such a way to protect. These areas of the brain also happen to control things like digestion and heart rate. So, once they spring into action, your body works differently as it is affecting areas of the brain at the same time that are responsible for thoughts and feelings as well as physical sensations. However, just because someone experiences a trauma doesn’t mean that they will experience health problems.
What determines who will experience short term or prolonged Trauma symptoms:
The good news is that not everyone who experiences a stressful event will develop trauma symptoms. Factors that determine the impact of a trauma are: presence of other mental health conditions, previous exposure to traumatic events, the type and characteristic of the event or events, a persons background and approach to handling emotions, available resources and support systems, and predisposition to be resilient.
What is resilience?
Resilience is the psychological quality that allows some people to be knocked down by the adversities of life and come back at least as strong as before. For example, holding the ability for optimism has been shown to help blunt the impact of stress on the mind and body following stressful experiences. Other factors that determine resilience are genetics, early life experiences and breaking out of negative thoughts cycles.
What can I do to cope?
Practicing self-care can help individual to cope with both emotional and physical symptoms of Trauma. Exercise, mindfulness, connection with others, and having a strong support system are critical elements for coping in a healthy manner. A balanced lifestyle is also critical which encompasses 7-9 hours of sleep a night, eating a balanced diet, avoiding alcohol and drugs, and relieving stress with enjoyable activities.
Professional interventions are often necessary to assist someone who has been affected by Trauma. Therapy is a first-line treatment for trauma. Working with a therapist that is trauma informed or trauma focused is most ideal. Medication alone cannot “cure” a trauma, but it can assist in managing symptoms such as anxiety, depression and sleep disturbance. Medication in conjunction with therapy is known to be a successful treatment model.
CrossWinds Counseling and Wellness has trained trauma professionals on staff that are available to assist you and your loved ones. It is important to know that you are not alone, and we can help. Please give us a call at 620-343-2211 to request an appointment. You can learn more about our services at www.crosswindsks.org.