Tuesday 6 February 2024

Trauma: Signs Your Past May Be Affecting Your Present

The article is developed in partnership with BetterHelp.

If you’ve ever had a strong emotional reaction to something without knowing why, it’s possible you were experiencing the effects of trauma. Traumatic events can happen to anyone at any stage of life, but children are particularly vulnerable to being affected. When someone experiences trauma during childhood, it can carry into their adult years, impacting their careers, relationships, and mental health. Therefore, being able to recognize the signs of trauma and get support is crucial. Here, we’ll discuss what can make a situation traumatic and how to identify the underlying symptoms of trauma. 
What Makes An Event Traumatic? 
It’s important to recognize that not everyone who experiences a scary or life-threatening situation will develop trauma. Two people can experience the same event and have very different reactions to it. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, a traumatic event can be defined as “a shocking, scary, or dangerous experience that can affect someone emotionally and physically.” When someone fears for their well-being and feels helpless in avoiding being harmed, trauma may result. 
Common Types Of Trauma
Trauma comes in numerous forms, affecting people in vastly different ways. Not everyone who goes through a scary or life-threatening situation will have trauma, and sometimes, trauma can come from an event that others wouldn’t necessarily find distressing. Everyone has unique responses to the world around them, making trauma a complex subject. To develop trauma, you may experience the event directly or be a witness to it. Below are some examples of situations that could be considered traumatic:   
Signs Of Unresolved Trauma
When someone has experienced trauma, it may not be readily apparent. Sometimes, the symptoms the individual is experiencing are incorrectly attributed to something else, which can make it more difficult to get them the help they need. Trauma can manifest as both physical and emotional symptoms. These include, but are not limited to the following: 
Beyond these symptoms, individuals with trauma may feel like they can’t seem to let go of situations from the past. They might find themselves attracted to the same types of people who previously hurt them or notice that a lot of their conversations center around people, places, or things from their past. There may also be certain triggers that cause them distress, often related to previous experiences. Living with trauma can cause people to withdraw from life and loved ones, which is often a subconscious effort to protect themselves from further harm.  
Remember that every person can respond to trauma in unique ways and to different degrees. Some individuals may be impacted by an experience to such an extent that it makes daily functioning difficult, while others might notice the effects of their trauma only in specific scenarios, like high-stress situations. 
Healing From Trauma
Once you’ve identified the presence of trauma and its impact, you can begin to understand how to overcome it. Healing from trauma isn’t about forgetting what happened; rather, it’s about learning to live a full, healthy life despite what you’ve been through. This might involve gaining new coping skills, embracing new relationships, or seeing a therapist to talk through your thoughts and feelings. 
Healing from past traumas can take time, which may be a resource you feel you’re lacking. In this case, participating in online therapy could be helpful. Platforms such as BetterHelp offer virtual therapy, giving you the chance to embark on your healing journey at your own pace. Whether you decide to receive support virtually or in person, it’s crucial to get the support you need. With the right tools and guidance, you can devote yourself to your present life while learning how to adequately address your past.  

▪ Natural disasters: Losing one’s home or possessions to a natural disaster such as a hurricane or tornado could undermine a person’s sense of safety, particularly if their life or the lives of their loved ones were in danger. 
▪ Car accidents: Feeling a loss of control during a car accident could be enough to cause trauma. Guilt may result on the part of the individual responsible for the accident, especially if there were injuries or deaths associated with it.
▪ Serious illness or injury: Being exposed to someone who is severely ill or injured or personally experiencing a serious illness or injury can make a person feel helpless. A terminal diagnosis can also be traumatic, as there often isn’t anything anyone can do to improve the situation. 
▪ Domestic violence: Violence between family members can be traumatizing, both for survivors of the attacks as well as those witnessing it. 
▪ Assault: Being physically or sexually assaulted can cause a person to fear for their well-being, and even their life, particularly if they feel powerless in stopping the assault. 
▪ Witnessing a death: Seeing someone lose their life, whether a stranger or a loved one, can leave imprints on a person’s mind, causing intrusive thoughts and other mental health concerns. 
▪ Neglect: Neglect occurs when someone’s parent, guardian, or other caregiver doesn’t take care of them properly. A child may not be given enough to eat, while an elderly individual might not get the medications they need. 
▪ Abuse: Abuse comes in many forms, including emotional, physical, mental, sexual, and psychological. People can also be financially abused, and bullying can also fall into this category. Children who are abused may experience the most severe effects, as they are particularly vulnerable and could be more prone to feelings like guilt or shame. However, anyone can be deeply impacted by abuse. 

▪ Stomachaches and digestive issues
▪ Depression, anxiety, or other mental health concerns
▪ Frequent crying
▪ Anger, irritability, or emotional outbursts 
▪ Withdrawal from loved ones
▪ Self-destructive behavior or self-harm
▪ Substance misuse
▪ Flashbacks
▪ Difficulty trusting others
▪ Low self-esteem
▪ Insomnia 
▪ Hyperarousal or being “on edge”
▪ Suicidal ideation

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