The True Impact of Trauma
Psychological trauma is general defined as the type of damage to the mind that is caused by a distressing event. It is often the byproduct of an overwhelming amount of stress that exceeds an individual’s capacity to cope with the experience, or their ability to assess the emotions brought on through the event. Trauma is not only created by one distressing event. This condition can also develop through reoccurring experiences that continue for weeks, years or even decades. This gradual buildup of overwhelming experiences can lead to severe, long-term consequences for those who struggle. Furthermore, as the trauma progresses, the symptoms often increase as well.
Because each individual’s perceives their experience differently, people with similar circumstances can ultimately react differently. Some people have developed protective coping skills that make them less susceptible to certain kinds of trauma. Therefore, some people will develop severe forms of psychological trauma due to an event, while others may not be traumatized by it. It is not a one-size-fits-all kind of issue. There are a number of trauma-related disorders that manifest in many ways.
However, regardless of how someone develops trauma or what event becomes the catalyst of their condition, it can be a heavy burden to bear. Severe forms of psychological trauma can contribute to a number of other serious health risks, including substance abuse and addiction.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
One well-known form of trauma is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This is a mental health disorder that is typically triggered by a traumatic event that someone either experiences or witnesses. Some of the most common examples of traumatic events include:
- Combat exposure
- Sexual assault
- Childhood physical abuse
- Traffic collisions
- Physical assault
- Natural disasters
- Life-threaten events
- Unexpected death of a loved one
- Medical diagnosis
PTSD can even impact those who are not directly affected by the event, but are influenced indirectly. In some instances the individual had a loved one involved in a dangerous incident. Others may even develop PTSD by being exposed to a major event through the media. Experts say that common signs of PTSD can include:
- Dreams or nightmares related to the traumatic event
- Thoughts or feelings connected to the event
- Mental or physical distress due to cues related to the trauma
- Attempts to avoid those cues
- Increase in the fight-or-flight response
- Flashbacks or reliving the traumatic event as if it were happening again
- Negative shifts in mood or thinking
- Feeling emotionally numb
- Difficulty maintaining close relationships
- Overwhelming guilt or shame
- Sleeping problems
- Problems with concentrating
- Aggressive behavior or angry outburst
- Being on guard and defensive
The intensity of PTSD symptoms may fluctuate over time. In some cases, you may experience symptoms when under stress. Other times, you may be reminded of the trauma through a specific event or outside influence that brings back memories of the original source of the trauma.
Developmental Trauma and Addiction
Studies have indicated that childhood experiences can account for approximately 32.4% of all mental health disorders, including:
- 26.2% of mood disorders
- 32.4% of anxiety disorders
- 21% of substance use disorders
One important thing to take away from these statistics is the relevance of developmental trauma and how it influences other issues. Development trauma is a term that encompasses traumatic experiences in childhood, such as:
- Physical abuse or neglect
- Emotional abuse or neglect
- Sexual abuse
Factors that contribute to developmental trauma also include several forms of dysfunction in the household. Children can be traumatized by a number of adversities in the home, including:
- Mental illness in relatives
- Domestic violence
- Incarcerated relatives
- Drug abuse
When children are exposed to overwhelming stress, these instances are often referred to as Adverse Childhood Experiences. In some ways, developmental trauma may lead to PTSD. However, some data suggests the majority of children are instead put at an elevated risk of developing a number of complex illnesses that can be emotional, physical or cognitive in nature.
Causes and Risks
With symptoms of trauma, the severity and frequency often depends on the individual, the type of traumatic experience, and the emotional support that is available to them. Therefore, the symptoms of trauma can vary greatly, and someone may experience one or many of them. Doctors are not exactly sure why some people get PTSD while others in the same experience do not. However, as with most issues concerning mental health, post-traumatic stress disorder is most likely a combination of:
- Family history of mental illness
- Stressful and severely traumatic experiences
- How the brain regulates chemicals and hormones in the body
- Personality traits of the individual
Furthermore, there are other elements that can put someone at a higher risk of developing a trauma related disorder. Some of these risk factors include:
- Having a history of mental health disorders, such as anxiety or depression
- A profession that increases your risk of being exposed to traumatic events, such as first responders or military personnel
- Issues with substance abuse or addiction
- Lacking a good support system, including friends or family
Age is also a factor, since the stage of life you are in during the traumatic experience can also influence your risk for developing a trauma disorder like PTSD. Sex is relevant as well, considering women are statistically more likely than men to develop PTSD.
Research does indicate that it is possible to take some steps toward preventing the development of severe trauma disorders. By knowing your risk profile, you can reduce your risk of suffering further if you seek proper support immediately after the traumatic event. Studies show that the sooner someone gets help following a traumatic event, the better their chances for recovering.
Another useful tool for PTSD and trauma prevention is to work on improving your coping skills. Incorporating balance and self-love into a proactive lifestyle can help individuals build a sturdy foundation for dealing with intense experiences. Experts indicate that engaging in self-care strategies make it easier to heal in the event of trauma. This includes things like:
- Eating health
- Recreational activities
- Self-reflection and mindfulness
- Spending time with loved ones
- Building stronger relationships
- Practicing self-worth
- Spending time in nature
- Connecting with a spiritual community
Essentially, once someone has an adequate idea of how susceptible they are to trauma, and builds a system of support and coping skills, they are more prepared to experience trauma. Not only have they begun to better understand their own reactions, but they have built up a defense against their triggers.
Techniques for Treating Trauma
Palm Partners Recovery Center knows how hard it can be to overcome trauma and PTSD, especially for those who also struggle with other mental health disorders or co-occurring addictions. In order to provide effective and compassionate care, we believe in offering personalized and innovative therapies, while providing a variety of modalities for holistic mental health treatment.
We developed the Palm Partners Stress and Trauma Program specifically for those struggling with PTSD and other related issues. This program includes powerful and transformative approaches, including:
- Trauma Resolution Therapy
- Eye Movement Desensitization and Debriefing (EMDR)
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Those suffering with trauma and PTSD deserve a quality of life, which means they need a high quality of care that is designed to support them in recovering from the impact of their experience.
Having safe and effective treatment for PTSD is incredibly important. Studies show that at least 10% of women will experience PTSD in their lives, along with 4% of men. Veterans and first responders experience particularly high rates of PTSD, and the effects of trauma on children can also be tragic and intense. The more resources that are available to help those struggling with trauma-related disorders, the better hope each of these individuals can have for the future.