Trauma and PTSD

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Most people will experience a traumatic event at some point in their lives.  Each of us experiences and processes trauma differently, so finding effective ways to cope can be a challenge.  There is nothing wrong with seeking help.

Common initial reactions to trauma include exhaustion, confusion, sadness, anxiety, agitation, numbness, dissociation, confusion, or emotional numbness.  

These are normal, but can still be distressing to experience.

The most likely emotions to surface are anger, fear, sadness, and shame.  It may be difficult for survivors to identify these feelings for various reasons.  A belief that expression is too dangerous or will lead to feeling out of control can lead to denying any feelings associated with the trauma, feeling numbness or lack of emotions.

Emotional Dysregulation caused by trauma can look like:

    • Difficulty regulating emotions, particularly if the trauma occurs at a young age
    • Attempting to self-medicate, namely substance abuse
    • High-risk or self-injurious behaviors
    • Disordered Eating
    • Compulsive behaviors, such as gambling or overworking
    • Repression or denial of emotions

Traumatic stress tends to evoke two emotional extremes:  feeling either too much (overwhelmed) or too little (numb) emotion.  Treatment can help you regulate your emotions without the use of substances or other unsafe behavior.  Likely, you’ll need to learn new coping skills and how to tolerate difficult emotions.  

While we often focus on psychological symptoms of trauma, there can be a variety of physical symptoms as well, including sleep disorders and a number of chronic conditions.  Learning to identify the correlation between your physical symptoms and your trauma is an important step toward holistic health.

Trauma often leads to hyperarousal (also called hypervigilance), which is the body’s attempt to remain prepared.  Symptoms include sleep disturbances, muscle tension, and a lower threshold for startle responses and can persist for years after the trauma occurs.  Treatment can teach you to regulate your nervous system and restore a sense of safety and calm.

Trauma creates a feeling of being different from others, regardless of whether the trauma was an individual or group experience.  Traumatic experiences typically feel surreal and challenge the necessity and value of mundane activities of daily living.  Survivors benefit from sharing their feelings, thoughts, and reactions with a professional who can help them overcome feeling alienated or the belief that they are “damaged goods.” 

Survivors also benefit from identifying and learning to cope with triggers.  Some triggers are identified and anticipated easily, while others are subtle and inconspicuous, surprising you or catching you off guard.  Treatment allows you to identify potential triggers, draw a connection between strong emotional reactions and triggers, and develop coping strategies to manage those moments when a trigger occurs.

A flashback is re-experiencing a previous traumatic event as if it were happening in the moment.  These experiences are very brief, but the emotional effects linger for hours or longer.  Treatment can teach you techniques for grounding yourself in the here and now after experiencing a flashback.  It can also teach you to draw a connection between the trigger and the traumatic event as a preventive strategy - so you can anticipate when situations place you at higher risk and may require use of coping strategies.

PTSD (Post-traumatic Stress Disorder) is a type of anxiety disorder that can happen after a deeply threatening or scary event.  If you’re experiencing PTSD, it may feel like you’ll never get your life back.  But it can be treated.

Treatment for PTSD has three main goals:

    • Improve your symptoms
    • Teach you skills to deal with it
    • Restore your self-esteem

Regardless of how you or your loved one is responding to trauma, help is available.  We are trauma trained and here to help you in your recovery.


For more information and/or to schedule, please contact us at 270-943-7818 or [email protected].

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