What is Trauma?

If you have an aversion to certain sounds, have trouble speaking up for yourself, or tend to forget things, these could be signs of trauma. Trauma refers to an event or multiple events that a person did not have the capacity or resources to cope with. Trauma is the root cause of a plethora of mental health issues. Simply put, it is a response to distressing events or experiences that cause an overwhelming reaction or turn us emotionally numb. 

What are some symptoms of trauma?

TRIGGER WARNING: sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse

If you’ve ever been abused physically, sexually, or emotionally, if you have feelings of never being good enough, feeling that you can never win an argument, having to seek approval/affection in a relationship, if you’re scared of someone, name-calling, etc., at any point of time, you have undergone trauma. This trauma might manifest in several ways:

  • Intrusive Memories
  • Few/ lack of memories
  • Nightmares and flashbacks
  • Panic attacks
  • Startle responses
  • Emotional overwhelm
  • Shame and self-hatred
  • Numbing
  • Depression
  • Loss of interest and decreased concentration
  • Insomnia
  • Self-destructive behavior
  • Anger issues
  • Substance Abuse
  • Impulse control with food
  • Hypervigilance
  • Dissociation
  • Chronic pain or headaches

How can I address my trauma?

There are several types of therapy that specialize in several different mental health issues. Trauma therapy addresses those issues that are caused by trauma. The intensity of trauma isn’t always addressed by regular therapy. Some people remember their trauma in great detail while others have little to no memory of it. Even when they remember, some patients are unable to talk about the event(s)- this could be because trauma affects the left side of the brain, where language resides. Others are able to talk about it in great detail but there is a mismatch between their emotional tone and expression. For example, they could be talking about the death of a loved one while smiling or laughing- this is a sign that they’re dissociating.

Clinical psychologist Dr. Kathleen Young pointed out what trauma therapy should focus on.

  1. While telling your story and focusing on the vents and memories, it is crucial to bring trauma memories to mind.
  2. An important part of the healing process is to remain grounded in the present moment and create a trusting relationship with your therapist while recalling traumatic memories.
  3. There shouldn’t be an emphasis on traumatic material when the patient is not ready to face those memories again. This could do more harm than good. In the past, trauma survivors were encouraged to speak about their abuse with the idea that the catharsis would be healing. However, this practice led to re-traumatization.
  4. Emphasizing the need of knowing, practicing, and learning self-care skills for trauma survivors during the memory phase of therapy is essential.

Due to the many risks involved, healing is best done with a trained trauma specialist who focuses on helping you learn techniques to cope with memories of trauma effectively. They should also be able to help you learn how to remain in the present while you connect with the past. At Another Light, we specialize in identifying trauma and healing it as opposed to providing stop-gap solutions by only focusing on the symptoms of the trauma.