Throughout our daily lives everyone will encounter stressful events. However, sometimes these events can hold a lasting impact on our emotional well-being and can impair our ability to cope. When a stressful event happens and it causes a significant emotional response and breaks a person’s sense of security, it is considered to be traumatic. During traumatic events, individuals can feel severely threatened on an emotional, physical and/or psychological level.
While it is normal for fear and anxiety to follow a particularly stressful event, everyone’s emotional response will be unique. Depending on a person’s level of resiliency, some individuals will naturally recover with time, whereas others will experience emotional pain, fear and confusion long after the event. Not every event will elicit a traumatic response, but the following are some common experiences that often will produce the emotional dysregulation associated with trauma:
Following a traumatic event, it is always encouraged to seek the support and guidance of a mental health professional.
In some cases, individuals will experience the psychological effects of trauma immediately following the event. However, this is not always the case and many individuals can experience post-traumatic reactions sometimes weeks, months or years later. The effects of trauma will depend on the individual’s ability to cope and level of resiliency, as well as some predispositions that can influence post-traumatic reactions. For instance, individuals who have or had depression or anxiety in the past may be more likely to experience post-traumatic reactions following the event. Research has also found genetic factors that can influence the development of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder such as if your parents suffered from their own mental health conditions. Though it is important to recognize that in no way does an individual’s response or lack thereof indicate strengths and weaknesses, as well as the ability to cope among other common biases associated with trauma.
There are common emotional and physical reactions that may follow a traumatic experience, especially if the person was victimized during the encounter. Emotional responses such as shock, sadness, fear, anger, shame and guilt are common following an excessively stressful event. Physical symptoms can include changes in sleep patterns, tremors, physical pain, rapid breathing or heart rate, and aversions to human touch. When infants and children experience traumatic events, brain development can be delayed which can lead to lasting mental and physical health concerns.
Other effects related to traumatic experiences might include:
When trauma has been experienced, not only is the mind affected, but the body has been as well. Research has shown that the physical body tends to hold the imprint of past traumatic events in our cellular memory. For instance, when someone starts to activate a trauma network by thinking of particular memories, they can also simultaneously feel physical reactions in parts of their body. Some individuals may feel it in their shoulders, stomach, neck and other muscle groups. The body can store the trauma and contribute to increasing stressful reactions.
The experience of second hand trauma may also produce similar effects as those who are directly impacted by a traumatic event. Parents, caregivers, teachers, mental health professionals and other supporting people in someone’s life can be exposed to the trauma that is shared with them. While hearing about the traumatic events is not the same as living the experience, it can still elicit substantial emotional responses and difficulties for those who are supporting the individual directly impacted. People who are caring for individuals who have experienced a traumatic event should develop awareness to their emotional responses should second hand trauma arise.
Recovery from trauma and the reduction or elimination of post-traumatic reactions are possible with time and adequate support. Some individuals can find that with time, patience and self-care they have the ability to recover from a traumatic experience quickly. However, the most effective way of treating trauma is through psychotherapy or a combination of psychotherapy and psychotropic medication.
Individual and group therapy can be effective treatment methods for people who have post-traumatic reactions or have been diagnosed with PTSD. In fact, there are specialized forms of therapies that have been specifically designed for the treatment of trauma. For instance, Eye Movement Desensitization, Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Cognitive Processing Therapy have all been created with the specific focus of treating trauma.
A support network will become a vital component during the trauma recovery process. Individuals who have supportive networks to lean on during stressful or emotional moments and an environment that promotes healthy living can assist in reducing trauma symptoms sooner. Support networks can include family members, friends, and peers who have experienced similar circumstances.
Unfortunately, in today’s society it is not uncommon for someone to have experienced a traumatic event. However, it is important that we recognize the symptoms as they are arising and seek out help from a mental health professional as soon as possible to prevent long-term post-traumatic reactions. The clinicians at Puglisi Counseling have been thoroughly trained in several modalities that are specific to treating trauma including:
Your clinician will work alongside you to ensure you feel safe and secure during trauma focused therapy. They will ensure that you experience healing, comfort and support throughout the entire experience of working through traumas. Schedule for trauma-focused therapy in Northeastern Pennsylvania at Puglisi Counseling today.