What is trauma and what do I need to know about it?
It seems like there is so much we hear about “trauma”.
Trauma can be described as anything that overwhelms the brain’s ability to make sense of what is happening. Chronic trauma can be more than a physical experience. Sometimes something that might be traumatizing for one person might not impact another.
Examples of traumatic experiences are:
• Single traumatic episodes like rape or a car accident
• Repeated trauma like neglect, sexual, physical, or emotional abuse
Chronic trauma experienced as children can have long lasting reactions for adults. Without even knowing it people can have hard time coping with every day stressors due to changes in brain brought on by continuing trauma. Ongoing abuse and neglect rewires the brain to expect those experiences to continue and therefore adapt to them as “normal”.
Some symptoms of trauma:
• Shock, denial, or disbelief
• Confusion, difficulty concentrating
• Anger, irritability, mood swings
• Anxiety and fear
• Guilt, shame, self-blame
• Withdrawing from others/social isolation
• Feeling sad or hopeless
• Feeling disconnected or numb
• Hypervigilance, or being hyper-aware of your surroundings
• Flashbacks and/or nightmares
There are theories that some mood disorders, such as bipolar, depression, and anxiety, can have their roots in trauma. This is not always the case but it is worth considering whether or not trauma plays a part in mental health challenges. That is why a therapist may want to know about a client’s adverse childhood experiences. There are also mind/body connections with studies being done that appear to be linking early trauma with chronic physical pain, like fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, and even rheumatoid arthritis.
What can be done?
Having past trauma doesn’t necessarily mean a life stuck in suffering. Again, more studies are showing that effective trauma treatment does exist and are showing promising results. Some of those treatments include EMDR (Eye Movement and Desensitization Reprocessing) and Internal Family Systems counseling. Trauma treatment is different from “talk therapy” and often includes a more focused, experiential piece. More information about these different options will be coming in future blog posts.
Watch this space for more information on trauma treatment and ways healing is occurring for those suffering the effects of trauma.