What Is Trauma And How Do You Heal From It?

Did you know that trauma is the top cause of death from ages 1 to 46? Annually, the impact of trauma costs a staggering $671 billion in healthcare and lost productivity costs.

So, what is trauma? Trauma refers to experiencing or witnessing a disturbing or distressing event. These events can be life-threatening, and they are often terrifying, dangerous, and potentially violent. The nature of trauma doesn’t discriminate. It affects people of all ages and demographics. Some trauma, such as war combat and rape, are obvious. Other traumas, however, are far more insidious and discreet.

Most people know that trauma can be damaging. But many of those people don’t know how to cope or heal from its terrible effects.

Types of Trauma

Trauma comes in many different flavors, but each type can cause residual symptoms and backlash. Traumatic experiences may include:

  • Natural disasters or terrorism
  • Family or community violence
  • Death or loss of a loved one
  • Physical abuse
  • Sexual abuse or assault
  • Verbal and emotional threats or abuse
  • War experiences, torture, and refugee histories
  • Life-threatening medical issues

Trauma can affect you even when it doesn’t happen to you directly. For example, a small child witnessing her father violently assaulting her mother can be terrifying. A driver in a car accident may be completely shaken up and depressed if his passenger becomes injured.

Common Symptoms After Experiencing Trauma

Trauma can leave people with a variety of unsettling and difficult emotions, memories, and thoughts. Some of the common symptoms people experience after trauma include:

  • Shock and denial
  • Withdrawal from others
  • Anxiety and fear
  • Guilt, self-blame, and shame
  • Persistent sadness
  • Hopelessness
  • Disconnection and numbness
  • Anger, irritability, mood swings
  • Muscle tension and pain
  • Agitation and feeling ‘on edge’
  • Hypervigilance
  • Insomnia
  • Panic attacks
  • Nightmares
  • Flashbacks
  • Intrusive thoughts about hurting self or others

All of these are normal reactions in the immediate aftermath of a trauma. However, if they persist, the individual may develop PTSD, which is a serious and potentially debilitating mental disorder.

Coping With Trauma

Trauma disrupts our mind and body’s natural homeostasis. It can place you in a terrifying state of fear and hyperarousal. However, it can also create a shell-shock effect of numbness and apathy. Anyone who has struggled with trauma will need healthy coping skills to manage these distressing symptoms.

Prioritize Physical Health

During this sensitive time, you want to still be alert, focused, and sharp. Neglecting your health can lead to more physical and emotional problems.

Make sure that you are eating a well-rounded diet and getting plenty of exercise. Aim to adhere to a regimented sleep schedule each night. Limit or avoid mood-altering substances like caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, or other drugs. While these substances may feel helpful in the short-term, they can actually increase feelings of anxiety and depression- which may perpetuate the trauma symptoms.

Lean Into Support

It’s normal to want to isolate after trauma. You may feel ashamed, embarrassed, or confused about what happened. Unfortunately, isolation only tends to make things worse.

Remember that you don’t have to talk about the trauma unless you want to talk about it. Instead, focus on how you can engage in social activities. If you do feel safe sharing your experience with someone else, ask for their support. The right people will be happy to provide it.

Practice Self-Regulation

We can learn how to manage and even relieve the most distressing emotions. Self-regulation can help reduce the effects of trauma, and it can also create a dynamic sense of self-empowerment.

Self-regulation includes mindfulness, grounding exercises, and slowing down. Aim to stay present. When you find yourself ruminating on the past or obsessing about the future, it’s time to center yourself. These skills take practice. Don’t give up if they don’t work right away!

What Is Trauma- When To Seek Professional Therapy

What is trauma? It’s a complicated and devastating experience that impacts each individual differently. Trauma is shocking and frustrating, and it certainly doesn’t exist on any wavelength of logic or reason.

Trauma recovery can take time, and no two timelines look the same. However, if it’s been several months (or years), and you feel like your symptoms are stagnant or progressing, it may be time to consider professional support.

It can be frightening to think about working through your trauma. However, specialized trauma therapy can help you express and unpack your feelings. Together, we can work together to improve the quality of life you deserve. Contact Willow Counseling today to learn more.

Willow Counseling, Nashville, TN

Willow Counseling, PLLC exists to provide quality trauma-informed mental health counseling to the Nashville community, recognizing the interconnectedness of our emotional, spiritual and physical selves. We work together to alleviate symptoms, learn better coping skills, relieve burdens, remove the pain of trauma, and so much more. However, our greatest desire is for you to know what it means to feel purpose and joy again and to recognize the strength and worth you have to offer the world.


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