Most people will experience some sort of traumatic event in their lifetime. Each person will usually have a unique response to their experience.
Trauma can impact our relationships as well as affect our view of ourselves, others’ and the world. There are many important factors that can affect how trauma impacts each individual and their ability to navigate through the situation.
Trauma Influencing Factors
- Age at Time of Traumatic Event
- How long the Experience Lasted
- The Quality of Support Present
- The Individual’s Personality
- Other Life Stressors Occurring Simultaneously
Trauma Does Not Have to Control Your Life!
While some people can recover from trauma over time with appropriate support systems, others will experience the chronic effects of trauma. This can cause a person to live with deep emotional pain, fear, confusion, or develop posttraumatic stress far after the event has passed.
In these particular circumstances, the support & guidance of trained therapist is fundamental to the healing process.
Regular Memory vs. Traumatic Memory?
Memories are usually encoded with information experienced through our 5 senses: sights, sounds, smells, tastes and physical feelings. These memories will also include the meaning we ascribe to the event as well as the intensity we felt at the time.
When we experience a traumatic event, our thoughts; emotions and body sensations all get stored in our brains and bodies in unhealthy ways.
When an experience is too overwhelming for the brain to handle at the time, adrenaline rushes through the body and the memory is imprinted into the amygdala. The memories are stored in the amygdala through fragments of visual images, smells, sounds, tastes, or touch. They do not get encoded like a full movie.
As we experience everyday life, certain moments may somehow remind our brain and body of the past trauma experienced, whether we remember it or not.
So, instead of interpreting the situation as normal, our brain inadvertently reads the circumstances as dangerous and stirs up “old stuff”.
All that “old stuff” then gets stirred up, but now it will include the current experience that just triggered it!
Each time this occurs, the new experiences get stored with the initial traumatic event in the same dysfunctional manner. This constant misinterpretation of sensory information causes the brain to lose it’s ability to determine what is dangerous and what is normal, making the problem worse over time.
Over time, brain becomes somewhat disorganized and overwhelmed causing the body to go into survival mode while shutting down the higher reasoning and language structures of the brain. This sequence of events triggers and ultimately imprints an extreme stress response in an individual.
The sooner we can process these traumatic events, the less “stuff” will get attached to the initial trauma, which will make it less complicated to process and ultimately heal from traumatic events.
Common Examples of Traumatic Events
- Abuse or Neglect
- Sudden Death of a Loved One
- Car Accident
- Fear of Harm due to a High Stress Environment
- Exposure to or Witnessing a Violent Criminal Act
- Exposure to the Violence of War
- Natural Disaster/Pandemic
Common Trauma Symptoms
- Avoiding specific locations, sights, situations, and sounds that serve as reminders of the event
- Anxiety, depression, numbness, or guilt
- Intrusive thoughts, nightmares or flashbacks
- Anger, irritability and hypervigilance
- Aggressive, reckless behavior, including self-harm
- Sleep disturbances
Negative Mood and Cognition Symptoms
- Loss of interest in activities that were once considered enjoyable
- Difficulty remembering details of the distressing event
- Change in habits or behavior since the trauma
Research has proven psychotherapy to be the most effective form of treatment for trauma. Most commonly, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) are used in treating trauma.
“Hardships often prepare people for an extraordinary destiny.”
If you or someone you know match the trauma symptoms listed above, I am confident that I can help and invite you to schedule an appointment today.