Trauma comes in many forms. It can be a single, deeply distressing event like a car accident or a sexual assault. It can take place over time from the controlling and abusive behavior from a parent or a partner. It can happen in situations we expect to be safe like at a job, a party, or a church and it can be caused by a person who previously had been safe. It can even happen from something expected, such as a surgery or a having a loved one enter hospice.
Regardless of how it occurs, the effects of trauma can be severe and cause significant negative consequences if left untreated. Many people struggle with reduced functioning at home or work, trouble forming or maintaining close relationships, or overusing substances like tobacco, alcohol, or even food. They may struggle to move on from the terrible event(s) and feel like life is going on without them.
Symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress
We all react to trauma in different ways, experiencing a wide range of physical and emotional reactions. There is no “right” or “wrong” way to think, feel, or respond, so don’t judge your own reactions or those of other people. Your responses are normal reactions to abnormal events. If you notice that you are experiencing some of the following symptoms, you may be experiencing post-traumatic stress.
Emotional & psychological symptoms:
- Anger, irritability, mood swings
- Anxiety or depression
- Confusion, difficulty concentrating
- Feeling disconnected or numb
- Feeling sad or hopeless
- Guilt, shame, self-blame
- Shock, denial, or disbelief
- Withdrawing from others
- Aches and pains
- Being startled easily
- Difficulty concentrating
- Edginess and agitation
- Insomnia or nightmares
- Muscle tension
- Racing heartbeat
Post-traumatic stress can persist long after the event(s) that caused it, overwhelming internal resources and external supports. Research has shown that trauma can even cause physical changes to the brain, making untreated symptoms difficult to recover from.
An important step for many in healing from traumatic experiences is seeking professional support. Research has shown trauma-informed counseling to be highly effective in reducing and even eliminating post-traumatic stress symptoms. The following are some basic goals of trauma-informed counseling:
- To desensitize the emotional power of memories
- To establish boundaries with toxic relationships or institutions
- To successfully handle the reality of the traumatic event
- To work through feelings of shame and self-blame
- To reduce or eliminate painful symptoms of trauma
- To reorient the focus to the present
- To boost day-to-day functioning and self-care
- To help individuals regain agency
- To build effective coping skills
To do that, trauma-informed therapy focuses on helping you feel safe and comfortable with confronting painful experiences. Specific techniques are used, such as EMDR and CBT, to help process painful memories and identify unhelpful thinking patterns. For more information about EMDR or CBT, please check out the respective links on our website. Please contact us for a free consultation.