Extremely stressful events we experience such as being in an accident, watching a loved one die or a natural disaster might have their toll on our physical and mental health as a response to the experience. This response is called “Trauma”. If you’ve experienced such traumatic events, here are signs that you are living with trauma.
Trauma develops when you experience highly stressful or life-threatening events that cause physical, emotional, spiritual, or psychological harm. This leads to feelings of physical threat or extreme fright.
Examples of such traumatic events include:
- Witnessing a death
- Domestic abuse
- Physical injury
- Witnessing a natural disaster
- Chronic illness
- A difficult divorce
- Parental abandonment
Trauma can have a long-term effect on the well-being of a person. If symptoms do not decrease, it might be that the trauma has developed into a mental health disorder called Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (Ptsd).
Types of Trauma
1. Acute Trauma
This trauma develops as a result of a single stressful or life-threatening experience. Examples are accidents or the loss of a loved one.
2. Chronic Trauma
This results from prolonged exposure to extremely stressful events repeatedly. Examples include domestic abuse, bullying, or child abuse.
3. Complex Trauma
This trauma develops as a result of exposure to multiple traumatic events.
4. Vicarious Trauma
Vicarious Trauma also known as secondary trauma, this occurs when an individual develops trauma symptoms from close contact with someone who experienced a traumatic event. Mental health providers, families, and those who provide care to traumatised people are at risk of this form of trauma.
Signs That Show You Are Living With Trauma
The way people respond to trauma is different ranging from mild to severe. There are no obvious signs mostly, but people may have serious emotional reactions.
People tend to use shock and denial to protect themselves from the emotional impact of the event. You may feel numb or detached and chances are you might not feel the intensity of the event immediately.
Once you are past the initial shock and denial, the signs you are living with trauma settle in. These signs are:
1. You Avoid Anything That Reminds You of the Event
When you experience a life-threatening situation, you do everything you cannot feel as you did in the course of the event. You’ll find yourself staying away from the environment, places, people, and things that would remind you of the traumatic event. You shy away from people or activities related to the event.
An example is staying away from the family of a lost spouse or engaging in activities that’ll take your mind off the traumatic experience.
2. You Have Flooding Intrusive Thoughts About the Event
Some people, especially those with highly creative minds recreate the traumatic event over and over in their minds, some experience the event again through repeated nightmares and others can’t get their minds off the event. If you find yourself amongst these, you are exhibiting one of the signs you are living with trauma.
3. You Are Constantly on Edge
Traumatic events make people emotionally vulnerable. And in your effort to prevent yourself from such feelings, you feel unsafe and become paranoid even in normal environments. This makes you struggle to feel safe amongst friends and families.
4. You Feel Disconnected From People Around You
Having gone through something you feel most people around you haven’t experienced makes it difficult for you to communicate with them. You feel they cannot relate to what you are going through and as such withdraw from them, thereby isolating yourself from day-to-day activities.
5. You Try to Stop Thinking About the Event
When you find yourself walking away from a conversation about an event because it is distressing, it might be a sign that you are living with trauma. People who have had a traumatic experience find it difficult to stop thinking about the event yet try to. They try to avoid talking about the event to anyone, including mental health providers.
6. You Have Developed Unhealthy Behaviours to Help With the Negative Feelings
As explained earlier, people who experience traumatic events try to numb the distressing feeling they have as a result of the experience. Some people turn to drugs, alcohol, and even binge-eating in an attempt to do away or reduce the symptoms of the trauma they experience.
7. You Develop Some Physical Symptom
Since trauma occurs as a result of highly stressful events, victim exhibit certain physical symptoms of stress. Fatigue, headaches, digestive symptoms, sweating, and nausea are common physical effects of trauma.
Also, traumatic experience tends to worsen an existing medical condition of people.
8. You Have Difficulty Sleeping/Insomnia
As a result of the repeated nightmares and flashbacks of the traumatic event traumatised people experience, having a healthy sleep becomes difficult. The fear of reliving the traumatic event again while sleeping often leads to anxiety which in turn triggers Insomnia. If you are having difficulty having a good night’s rest as a result of a nightmare about a stressful event you experienced, it is one of the signs you are living with trauma.
9. You Are Having Difficulty Concentrating After a Traumatic Event
The lack of sleep, mental exhaustion as a result of trying to avoid the thoughts of a traumatic event renders traumatised people tired. This exhaustion makes it difficult for you to concentrate on your work, school, family, and your day to day activities.
10. You Experience Emotional Outbursts
Experiencing emotional outburst is one of the signs you are living with trauma. Carrying the constant thoughts of the traumatic experience and not being able to share these thoughts will someone else, leads to emotional outbursts in an attempt to ease the mind of pent-up emotions. These outbursts could be sudden and excessive crying, laughter, or anger.
How Do You Manage Trauma?
They’re many behaviors you could adopt to help with the symptoms of trauma. such behaviours include:
- Spend time with others to help with withdrawal.
- Talk about the traumatic experience with your family, friends, journal, or diary.
- Recognise you can’t control everything.
- Try to eat well, exercise frequently, sleep well and avoid alcohol or drug use.
- Maintain a routine.
All of the above mention behavior adjustments could help with your symptoms. However, it is advised and even more appropriate to reach out to a mental healthcare provider for professional help. Psychologists and other mental health professionals can help you find ways to cope and manage trauma effectively.
At one point or another, some people will experience traumatic events in their lives. Some may respond to it for a short while in the form of shock and distress and can easily recover from it. However, a minority of people will respond to traumatic events for a long term, as in the development of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. This involves a lengthy process of recovery.
Understanding the symptoms and signs you are living with trauma, self-care and therapy can help you cope and manage symptoms from a traumatic event and improve your quality of life.
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