It’s one of those things that we hear talked about, but isn’t always entirely clear what it means and who it affects.
Trauma can take many forms: “Big T” traumas are often shocking, scary, or dangerous. These kinds of trauma may be natural, like a tornado or earthquake, but they can also be caused by other people, like a car accident, crime, or a terror attack. “Big T” traumas can also take the shape of major medical problems, the death of a loved one, or even a major financial or relationship crisis. “Little t” traumas, which can have an equally great impact, are often a result of chronic, on-going, or lower levels of not having our needs met, bullying, difficult relationships, or simply having experiences in life for which we were not prepared to deal.
There are many different responses to traumatic events. Most people have intense responses immediately following, and often for several weeks, months, or even years after a traumatic event. These responses may include:
- Feeling anxious, sad, or angry
- Trouble concentrating and sleeping
- Continually thinking about what happened
For most people, these are normal and expected responses and generally lessen with time. Healthy ways of coping during this recovery period may include avoiding alcohol and other drugs, spending time with loved ones and trusted friends who are supportive, trying to maintain normal routines for meals, exercise, and sleep. In general, staying active is a good way to cope with stressful feelings.
However, in some cases, the stressful thoughts and feelings after a trauma continue for a long time and interfere with everyday life. For people who continue to feel the effects of the trauma, it is important to seek professional help. Some signs that an individual may need help include:
- Worrying a lot or feeling very anxious, sad, or fearful
- Crying often
- Having trouble thinking clearly
- Having frightening thoughts, reliving the experience
- Feeling angry
- Having nightmares or difficulty sleeping
- Avoiding places or people that bring back disturbing memories and responses
Physical responses to trauma may also mean that an individual needs help. Physical symptoms may include:
- Stomach pain and digestive issues
- Feeling constantly tired
- Racing heart and sweating
- Being very jumpy and easily startled
Those who have previous mental health challenges or who have had traumatic experiences in the past, who are faced with ongoing stress, or who lack support from friends and family may be more likely to develop stronger symptoms and need additional help. Some people turn to alcohol or other drugs to cope with their symptoms. Although substance use can temporarily numb or appear to lessen symptoms, it can also make life more difficult and inhibit a person’s ability to process the trauma in a healthy manner.
If you or someone you know needs help, talk with your health care provider or give us a call! We have a caring staff of seasoned therapists in our Glendale, Arizona offices who have experience in helping people heal from the past, find meaning and joy in the present, and embrace hope for the future. (623) 810-1663