What Is Trauma and Where Can I Get Help?
Medically Reviewed by Dr. Nicole Avena
Trauma affects millions of people worldwide and can have a significant impact on their mental health. From childhood abuse to natural disasters, understanding trauma is critical in helping individuals overcome the difficulties it presents.
Whether you’re someone who’s personally experienced trauma or are seeking to learn more for personal development purposes, the following are valuable insights into what trauma is and how it impacts mental health.
Let’s explore the intricacies of this crucial topic.
What is Trauma?
Trauma is a type of stress that can have long-lasting effects on a person’s mental and emotional health. It can be caused by an event or series of events that are emotionally threatening or overwhelming. Traumatic events can include car accidents, sexual assault or abuse, and exposure to violence or war.
People who’ve experienced trauma may feel like they’re in danger even when they aren’t. They may feel scared, helpless, or alone. These individuals may be easily startled, become irritable or aggressive, have trouble sleeping, or avoid people or places that remind them of the traumatic event. These are all normal reactions to trauma.
But for some, these reactions linger long after the event is over and can lead to reliving the trauma through nightmares and flashbacks. This may cause them to feel isolated, ashamed, or hopeless, which may lead to substance abuse, mood issues, and other mental or behavioral problems. These issues may stem from one of the different types of trauma.
Types of Trauma
There are many kinds of trauma that can occur throughout a person’s life. The most common types of trauma include:
- Physical abuse
- Sexual abuse
- Emotional abuse
- Psychological trauma
- Childhood trauma
- Natural disasters
- War or conflict
Common Symptoms of Trauma
Trauma can manifest in many ways, but there are some symptoms that tend to be common among those who’ve experienced it.
Each type of trauma can have different effects on a person’s mental health. Some people may experience short-term effects, while others may suffer from long-term effects.
Some common symptoms of trauma include:
- Mood issues
- Intrusive thoughts or memories/flashbacks of the event
- Avoidance of anything that reminds them of the event
- Increased worry and fearfulness
- Nightmares or sleeplessness
- Agitation or irritability
- Guilt or shame
- Feeling disconnected from others or emotionally numb
It’s important to seek professional help if you’re experiencing any of these symptoms. A therapist can help you identify the source of your symptoms and develop a treatment plan to address them.
Effects of Trauma on Mental Health
Trauma can have a profound effect on mental health. Traumatic events can trigger a range of psychological reactions and other conditions.
People who’ve experienced trauma often feel isolated and alone. They may feel like they aren’t worthy of help or that no one can understand what they’re going through. These feelings can make it hard for them to reach out for support.
Untreated trauma can lead to long-term mental health problems.
Coping Strategies for Dealing with Trauma
When people think of the word trauma, they often associate it with a single, life-altering event, such as a experiencing a natural disaster or surviving a violent act. While these experiences certainly can be traumatizing, it’s important to remember that trauma isn’t always initiated by such dramatic events. Trauma can be caused by any experience that overwhelms your emotions, negatively affects your mood and stress levels, and causes you to isolate.
Isolation can be a major factor in both causing and prolonging trauma. When you feel isolated and alone, you’re more likely to dwell on your trauma, which can magnify its effects. As such, one of the most important things you can do when coping with trauma is to seek out social support.
Surround yourself with family and friends who will listen to you and offer words of comfort. If you don’t have close friends or family members you can rely on, there are many support groups available for people dealing with trauma. Talking about your experience with others who’ve been through similar situations can be very helpful in coming to terms with what happened and beginning the healing process.
It’s also important to take care of yourself physically when you’re dealing with trauma. Exercise and proper nutrition can help improve your mood and give you more energy to cope with difficult emotions. Be sure to get enough sleep, as fatigue can make it harder to deal with stress.
Also, try to find activities that bring you joy and help you relax. Whether it’s reading, playing music, or engaging in deep breathing exercises, find activities that can help reduce stress and increase calm and relaxation.
Some of the Best Treatment Options for Those Experiencing Trauma
There are a variety of treatment options available for those experiencing trauma. The type of treatment will vary depending on the individual and the severity of their trauma. Some common treatments include:
Psychotherapy: This is a type of counseling that can help individuals process their feelings and thoughts related to the trauma. It can be done in an individual or group setting.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: CBT can help individuals change negative thinking patterns and behaviors that may be associated with their trauma.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing: EMDR uses eye movement to help reduce the intensity of traumatic memories and has been an effective treatment for many people, including those struggling with PTSD.
Supplements: High-quality dietary supplements may help with emotional, physical, and mental challenges. It’s always recommended to speak with a nutritionally-informed doctor or healthcare professional before starting any supplement regimen.
Long-Term Effects of Untreated Trauma
Trauma doesn’t have to be a singular, life-altering event. It can be the result of several negative experiences that cumulatively create an overwhelming sense of hopelessness, powerlessness, and fear. When left untreated, trauma can have lifelong effects on mental health, including increased risk for developing serious stress and mood problems.
For many people dealing with untreated trauma, attempts at numbing their emotional pain may lead to substance abuse and self-harming behaviors. If you or someone you know is struggling with the effects of trauma, help is available. If you aren’t sure what to do, talking to a doctor or mental healthcare practitioner is a great place to start.
Hope for the Journey to Recovery
Trauma is a life-changing event that can have a major impact on an individual’s mental and physical health. It’s important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of trauma, how it can manifest in day-to-day life, and what potential treatments are available for those affected.
Remaining open to conversations about this topic can provide support and understanding for those who’ve gone through a traumatic experience.
With safe spaces, educational resources, and proper professional help, it’s possible to find the support and encouragement you need to guide you on your journey of recovery.
Amen Clinics offers in-clinic and telehealth (via telephone and video conferencing) services. To learn more about the full range of services at Amen Clinics or to set up an appointment, please call 866-347-6076.
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