Trauma is the emotional response to either having witness or lived through a violent, unpredictable, shocking, or unavoidable experience. An important thing to remember is that trauma is always triggered by the environment or by external variables that we have little or no control over. Having experienced abuse or trauma of any kind either at home or in our outside environment can make us feel unsafe, insecure or vulnerable. In such situations, we may be dealing with painful and scary memories and a feeling of constantly facing danger.
Trauma can be broadly categorized as:
- One-time events, such as sexual assault, an accident, injury, natural disaster, or violent attack
- Ongoing Trauma, such as prolonged sexual, physical and psychological abuse, or battling a life-threatening illness
Following are some of the ways in which trauma can manifest in our body, mind and behavior:
- Physical: Increased heart rate, tension in muscles, fatigue, disruption in eating and sleeping patterns
- Emotional/psychological: Feeling numb or a sense of feeling frozen, guilt, shame, self-blame, feeling hopeless, agitation, experiencing nightmares, panic attacks
- Behavioral: Substance abuse, getting easily startled, withdrawing from social contact, self-blame, self-harm, low self-confidence
The experience of trauma can make it difficult for people to learn to trust others again, and it may take a long while to overcome the pain and feel secure and safe again. However, with the right kind of help and support one can speed the process of healing, even if the trauma had occurred years ago.
Mentioned below are some suggestions to help you cope with the distress of trauma:
- Avoiding self-blame: The most important thing to know and to say to oneself as a survivor of trauma is that ‘it was/is not your fault and you did not deserve to go through this painful and traumatic experience’.
- Accessing support: Trauma can make us feel very alone and it can be a good idea to try and connect with others and be around supportive friends and family.
- Sharing with others: It can be helpful to talk to supportive people in our life or to others who have gone through trauma and have made meaning of their life.
- Seeking professional help: Recovery is different for different people. However, if it has been months and years and we are still unable to deal with the effects of trauma, it can be a good idea to seek professional help or help from a mental health expert.
Although the above mentioned suggestions can be useful in the process of recovering from trauma, seeking professional help is sometimes necessary depending on the extent of our distress. Counselors at Inspire are both trained and equipped to help cope with and manage the distress of trauma, and reaching out can be a great way to access this source of support.