What is Trauma?
Trauma is a deeply emotional and sometimes physical response to an event which causes shock or distress. From being involved or witnessing a car crash, to being involved in a natural disaster such as a fire or a flood, to being physically, sexually or mentally abused, bullied, and many more.
Trauma may include events where you are frightened or under threat in any way. But it can also be created through humiliation, rejection, abandonment, powerlessness and other situations where you feel unsafe, unsupported, trapped or ashamed.
Why can’t people just get over it?
A lot of well meaning people suggest that trauma is simple to recover from, so friends and family may not truly understand the impacts of trauma and what they mean for the person involved. They may try to help the person to “get better” from the trauma by asking them to move past the trauma by facing it, or just telling them they can get over it if they don’t think about it all the time.
But trauma is both a physical and mental response to danger, and because our brain is solely there for our survival, it tries to safeguard us from ever feeling in a vulnerable or dangerous situation in future, and this can lead to all kinds of symptoms.
Is it a mental health disorder?
Many mental health problems can stem from trauma such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Depression, Anxiety, Dissociation, Substance abuse, suicidal thoughts or feelings, self harm and it can also increase the risk of physical illnesses such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, obesity, chronic pain and autoimmune diseases.
How can I recover from trauma?
Recovery from trauma is a complex process that can take time. There is no one-size-fits-all approach, and what works for one person may not work for another. The good news is that you can recover from trauma and there are lots of therapists available who can help you work through your trauma so that you lessen the impacts of it. After some time you may even be free from the symptoms of trauma.
Some of the challenges that people face when recovering from trauma include:
- Coming to terms with what happened. This can be a difficult and painful process, and it may take time to fully understand and accept what happened. But by talking things through with a trauma informed therapist, you can gradually begin to come to terms with the situation.
- Managing difficult emotions. Trauma can trigger a range of difficult emotions, such as fear, anger, guilt, and shame. It can be hard for people to learn how to manage these emotions in a healthy way. Therapy can help guide you through each emotion so that you can look at things from different perspectives.
- Rebuilding trust. Trauma can damage a person’s ability to trust others, including themselves. It can take time to rebuild trust and feel safe in the world again. Therapy helps you to rebuild trust in your own body and mind, but also in other people.
Steps to recovery from trauma
There are a number of things that people can do to recover from trauma. These include:
- Seeking professional help. A therapist can provide support and guidance as you work through the recovery process.
- Learning about trauma. The more you understand about trauma, the better equipped you will be to cope with its effects, when we understand something it makes it far easier to work through. A good counsellor or psychotherapist will teach you about what trauma is and the impacts of it on the body.
- Practicing self-care. Taking care of yourself physically and emotionally is essential for healing. This may include getting enough sleep, eating healthy foods, exercising regularly, and engaging in activities that you enjoy. A hypnotherapist can talk to you about using hypnosis to relax for example.
- Using healthy coping mechanisms. There are a number of healthy ways to cope with difficult emotions, such as relaxation techniques, mindfulness, and journaling.
It is important to be patient with yourself during the recovery process. Healing from trauma takes a little time. But with the right support and resources, it is possible to recover and live a full and meaningful life.
If you would like to find a therapist to help work through trauma you have experienced, then look for one who is professionally accredited such as the ones available on this website.
Remember, you are not alone. There are many people who care about you and want to help you recover.
Emma Evans – Director APHP & NRPC