Going through a traumatic event can be life changing, often leaving individuals feeling devastated and alone. A trauma is defined as an event or threat that causes you to feel in danger of serious physical harm. This includes near death experiences, sexual assault, domestic violence, accidents, child abuse or even being a witness to a crime! Experiencing a trauma can cause significant impairments and in emotional, psychological and social functioning. As more research becomes available about the impact that trauma can have on emotional health, it has become clear that effective treatment is vital and can have a significant positive impact on improving overall well being.
Symptoms of trauma include:
- Recurrent and unwanted memories of the trauma
- Flashbacks and/or nightmares
- Severe emotional distress or physical reactions to reminders of the event
- Avoiding places, people or reminders related to the trauma
- Low self-esteem, shame and guilt
- Feeling numb or hopeless
- Isolation and losing interest in activities that once were pleasurable
- Memory problems
- Substance abuse
- Hypersensitivity to sounds and ones environment
- Trouble concentrating
- Trouble in interpersonal relationships
Often when working with clients, I hear a theme of profound struggle and pain that comes from living with these symptoms. The impairments caused by experiencing trauma can be emotionally draining and at times feel hopeless. It is important to remember that these responses are, “normal reactions to an abnormal event.” Many people become flooded with feelings of guilt and shame following a trauma and hide their symptoms in fear of judgment from others. This makes it even more important that we address the stigma surrounding mental health and become we become educated about the impact that untreated trauma can have. There is a clear link that has been found between substance abuse, eating disorders, self-harm, suicide and trauma.
Trauma can also impact relationships and leave individuals feeling alone and isolated at a time when connection to others is needed most. Leading to co-occurring depression, anxiety or other mental health issues. Research has found that talking about the trauma with a safe and trustworthy person can actually decrease and even eliminate symptoms. Taking the first step is difficult; but life changing!
Written by: Sandra Kushnir, MFTI #85116 – Santa Monica Intern Therapist
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Levine, P. (2010). In an unspoken voice: How the body releases trauma and restores goodness. Berkeley: North Atlantic Books.
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