What is trauma?
There isn’t one kind of trauma, and exposure to the same sort of trauma affects people in different ways. Trauma can look different, and it can be a one-time event that has a long-lasting effect on the brain. Trauma can also be repeated exposure to an experience that makes it difficult to handle emotions appropriately. How a person handles trauma can depend on the circumstances of the trauma and the individual’s personality.
Some of the most common sources of trauma are:
- Being a victim of domestic violence or being exposed to it.
- Experiencing a natural disaster
- Undergoing a severe illness or injury
- Being a victim of an assault
- Witnessing the death of a family member or close friend
- Seeing or experiencing an act of violence
Any of the things mentioned above can lead to both emotional and physical symptoms over a long period of time. Some people may be affected by the event right away, while others may take a more extended time to feel the effects. Either way, there is no question that traumatic events significantly impact the mind and body. The impact affects behaviors, emotions and can even affect your relationships. It can even serve as a precursor to drug and alcohol abuse.
What are the long-term effects of trauma?
Traumatic events trigger both physical and emotional responses in those who have experiences with them. The symptoms of trauma can be felt almost immediately in some while in others; they can occur over a long period of time.
With the correct treatment, the long-term effects of the trauma can be conquered. Here is a list of some of the most common emotional and physical symptoms of what trauma can look like:
- Denial – you may deny that a traumatic event has occurred
- Detached emotions from thoughts and actions surrounding the trauma
- Extreme anger or sadness
- Emotional outbursts
- Experiencing shame surrounding the trauma
- Physical responses like shaking
- Sleep problems such as insomnia
- Breathing problems
- Stomach problems
- High blood pressure or heart disorders
- Development of PTSD
- Substance abuse disorders
The two main manifestations of stress and anxiety caused by trauma are PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). This is a specific mental disorder that causes emotional and physical symptoms. The traumatic event they experience may be life-threatening, such as combat, a natural disaster, or a sexual assault. Many people who suffered from the 9-11 continue to experience PTSD all these years later.
The second one is drug and alcohol abuse. People who have experienced a traumatic event are likely to turn to drugs or alcohol to numb the pain they are experiencing and block out the trauma. Traumatic events and their long-term effects on an individual can sometimes be the catalyst for substance abuse. It has been proven that there is a strong relationship between people who have suffered a traumatic experience and those who are addicted to drugs and alcohol. Research shows that one in every four people who have experienced a traumatic event develops an addiction at one time or another. Trauma and addiction go hand in hand.
It may seem difficult to handle the long-term effects of trauma, especially if you are also struggling with substance abuse. Luckily you don’t have to go through this process alone.
There is help out there. There are several different types of therapy available to you.
There is residential rehab and intensive outpatient addiction treatment programs. Through individual therapy and group therapy, there are ways to overcome the effects of both trauma and addiction.
Here are just some of the benefits of this kind of treatment:
- Providing a safe and secure environment where you can share your traumatic event
- Help to identify the traumatic event and how it has affected your life
- Help to identify how a traumatic event is related to your emotional and physical responses, including the descent into addiction
- Setting up a support system
- Educating yourself on the underlying mental and physical responses to the traumatic event
- Reinforcing that you are not at fault. That the traumatic event happened to you and you did nothing to cause it
- Building up skills for coping with the traumatic response
Therapy can take many forms, but all approaches have one thing in common, learning how to process these events positively and productively.
There is no question that trauma has a tremendous impact on our lives, but it doesn’t have to define who you are; it doesn’t have to rule or ruin your life. There is help out there. You can learn different skills to cope with the trauma, and you can find a trauma counselor and form a support group. You can take back control of your life and move past this to live a happier life.