What exactly is trauma and what types of trauma exist? What do symptoms of trauma look like? Read the following article.
TRAUMA THERAPY | TYPES| SYMPTOMS | STAGES
Trauma describes the response a person experiences following an unexpected, terrible event. These experiences, referred to as traumatic events, include a variety of high-stress things like active war combat, assault, violence, natural disasters, or accidents. Trauma leads to many physical, psychological, and emotional symptoms.
Trauma responses vary significantly. Some have very short-lived symptoms while others develop pervasive disorders as a result. Some factors may make a person predisposed to long-term trauma responses. Additionally, ongoing traumatic experiences that last months or years are likely to cause a more detrimental reaction.
What exactly is trauma and what types of trauma exist? What do symptoms of trauma look like? How do people react to trauma and how can you treat it? Continue reading to learn more about trauma, its impact on a person, and how to find help if you’re experiencing it.
What Defines Trauma?
The American Psychological Association (APA) defines trauma as “an emotional response to a terrible event like an accident, rape, or natural disaster.” It describes the physical and psychological reactions to any experience that a person feels threatened or harmed, physically or emotionally.
Trauma includes a wide range of emotions and responses depending on the individual and their particular experience, both immediately afterward and also over time. People who experience trauma often feel shocked, helpless, and overwhelmed. They tend to have a hard time accepting and working through the experience. Some also experience physical symptoms of trauma.
Trauma responses can have both short-lived effects and long-term impacts depending on the person. Symptoms that persist with little or no decrease in intensity may mean you developed a trauma-related mental health disorder called post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Types of Trauma
Not all trauma responses are the same. Some people experience few to no symptoms after an extreme event while others develop serious, pervasive reactions. Since there is such a range of responses to traumatic events, trauma is divided into three main categories: acute trauma, chronic trauma, and complex trauma.
Acute trauma describes reactions to a single event in a person’s life. This could be something like a natural disaster, an accident, theft, a one-off event of abuse or assault, or witnessing a violent or traumatic event. These individual experiences are still so impactful that they cause either a short-term or long-term impact. Some believe acute trauma isn’t as serious as other forms of trauma because it’s only one event. In reality, these single-event experiences can cause incredible, ongoing harm.
Chronic trauma refers to responses caused by multiple or ongoing traumatic events that happen over time. This could mean someone who experiences numerous but separate traumatic experiences, or someone who goes through a prolonged traumatic experience. Examples of chronic trauma include exposure to combat or war, childhood neglect or abuse, sexual abuse, or domestic violence. Chronic trauma often causes severe responses, both physical and psychological.
Complex trauma is the result of experiencing numerous and varied traumatic events, typically as part of an interpersonal relationship. It usually refers to trauma that occurs during childhood, particularly neglect, child abuse, domestic or familial violence, community violence, adverse experiences, sexual exploitation, or trafficking, or any combination of these experiences. Complex trauma is an extensive and complicated condition usually resulting in extreme mental health and behavioral problems. These symptoms do not tend to match the symptoms of PTSD but are often worse than those of PTSD.
There are many different ways of treating substance abuse and addiction issues. When these problems occur as a result of a traumatic event, managing them can become complicated. Trauma therapy is a useful tool in handling the complications that result from enduring a traumatic event that leads to addiction. What is trauma therapy? What are the benefits provided by this type of treatment?
Explaining Trauma Therapy
Trauma therapy is a form of psychotherapy that centers around helping someone work through a traumatic experience. In this type of treatment, the person receives encouragement to go through the experience in a step-by-step manner. In doing so, they can change the way they react to the memories and negative emotions surrounding the event.
What are the Benefits of Trauma Therapy?
Many people who have gone through a trauma of some sort feel that no one understands what they’ve experienced. They may have disturbing memories of the event that bring about uncomfortable physical and emotional symptoms. Working through the trauma in an intimate setting with a counselor can provide the following benefits:
ACKNOWLEDGMENT AND UNDERSTANDING
With this unique form of therapy, the individual may find better insight into their trauma. This allows them to understand why the event makes them feel the way it does. It can also help them develop ways to cope with residual negative feelings surrounding the incident.
DEVELOPMENT OF VITAL COPING SKILLS
This form of treatment can also help a person develop important coping skills to deal with memories and emotions surrounding the trauma. These coping skills can include being able to recognize triggers and change negative thought patterns to more positive ones.
IMPROVEMENT IN SELF-ESTEEM
Many people who have suffered a trauma of some type of battle with self-esteem issues. They may blame themselves for the event, or simply feel negative as a result. Working through these thoughts can help them regain a favorable view of themselves.
IMPROVEMENT IN INTERPERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS
In some cases, suffering from trauma can impact the way a person interacts with others. As a result, their relationships with family and friends may falter. Understanding the incident can help strengthen the bonds that once felt broken.
The Importance of Trauma Therapy
When trauma accompanies substance abuse or addiction, seeking treatment from a quality drug addiction rehab is of importance. These facilities are here to guide you through the healing and recovery process. Through innovative treatment techniques that target your specific needs, you can begin to recover from the traumatic event and subsequent drug abuse. It’s important to remember that you don’t have to suffer through these problems alone.
What Can Cause Trauma?
Traumatic events are any type of event that causes harm in some way, whether physical, psychological, emotional, or spiritual. These distressing experiences cause a person to feel in danger or threatened. Trauma leaves a person feeling anxious and frightened for a period of time after the event occurs.
Many different things qualify as traumatic events. Certain experiences are obviously impactful while others might not seem as serious or extreme. Not everyone has the same responses to trauma. The important qualifying factor is it must cause some type of harm to the person who experienced the event.
Some examples of traumatic events include:
- Moving to a new location
- Prison sentence
- Serious illness
- Intense injury or physical pain
- Natural disasters
- Parental neglect or abandonment
- Death of a family member, partner, friend, pet, etc.
- Domestic abuse
- Physical or sexual abuse
- Witnessing a violent attack or death
The things listed above are some of the main events that lead to trauma responses. There are plenty of other experiences that can cause trauma, too. Ultimately, if it is unexpected and causes harm it is considered a traumatic event.
Signs and Symptoms of Trauma
Not all people who live through a traumatic event develop a trauma response. Some data estimates as many as 70 percent of American adults experience at least one traumatic event in their life. About 20 percent of those people end up developing a trauma-related disorder as a result.
Traumatic events can lead to both short- and long-term effects. The specific signs and symptoms of trauma that develop, as well as their severity, depend on the experience and the person. Trauma symptoms are split into two categories: physical and psychological. Some examples of these trauma symptoms include:
- Feeling edgy, nervous, or agitated
- Startling easily
- Troubles concentrating
- Racing heartbeat
- Muscle tension
- Aches and pains
- Anxiety and fear
- Mood swings
- Withdrawing from friends and family
- Feeling disconnected and numb
Some people believe that only people who are weak or cowardly can develop a trauma disorder. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Showing signs and symptoms of trauma does not make a person weak. There’s nothing wrong with you if you develop physical or psychological responses after experiencing a traumatic event.
What are the Stages of Trauma?
Most clinicians view trauma responses and recovery in stages. The most common understanding of the stages of trauma is the three-stage approach: establishment of safety; remembrance and mourning; and reconnection. Accepting and working through each stage is a crucial part of ensuring proper recovery from trauma.
STAGE 1: ESTABLISHMENT OF SAFETY
Traumatic experiences tend to destroy a person’s understanding and feelings of safety. Early trauma shatters a child’s sense of safety and trust. Trauma in adulthood leaves people feeling shaky and uncertain even after the event is long over. Establishing safety is necessary before any therapeutic approaches can be useful or effective.
Many people want to move through this stage quickly and focus too much on healing right away. If they rush the establishment of safety, though, they’ll be left feeling nervous and uncertain as they move forward. This stage lays the foundation for the work that’s required to heal properly and resolve the trauma.
STAGE 2: REMEMBRANCE AND MOURNING
The remembrance and mourning stage involves sharing about the traumatic experiences with a therapist in a safe, trusted environment. People are urged to share in as much detail as possible, or as they’re willing to share. Putting words to the feelings, sensations, and experiences is difficult and uncomfortable but necessary for healing.
Guilt, pain, and shame tend to come up during this stage, too. Therapists are there to hold space, listen, and offer support while reminding the person that the event was not their fault. The remembrance and mourning stage is a difficult part of the process but leads the person to a point where healing and resolution are possible.
STAGE 3: RECONNECTION
The reconnection stage encourages people to leave their old beliefs and ideas about their trauma behind and step into a new self. They come to terms with those painful parts of their past and learn to care for themselves moving forward. Reconnection involves letting go, forgiving, and realizing that there was nothing that could be done to change the experience.
The reconnection stage also helps people reintegrate with friends, family, and other loved ones they may have closed off from. Recovery is not always a straight line and sometimes people shift between stages but the reconnection stage means they’re well on their way to recovery.
What are Examples of Traumatic Experience?
The distinctive aspect of a traumatic experience is the perceived sense of threat or harm, either physical, psychological, emotional, or spiritual. These events leave the person feeling nervous, anxious, fearful, and on edge afterward. Traumatic experiences include a wide variety of events that they either witness or are involved in.
Some examples of traumatic experiences include being jumped, robbed, or mugged. Violent attacks and assaults, such as physical attacks or sexual assaults, are other types of traumatic experiences. Neglect or abandonment, especially during childhood, qualifies as trauma. Spending time in active war combat, either as a soldier or civilian, also qualifies.
Not all traumatic experiences are personal and violent. There are many other examples of traumatic experiences that don’t happen directly to the person that still result in lasting symptoms. The sudden death of a close friend, family member, or other loved one is considered a traumatic experience. Developing a serious illness or injury may result in trauma symptoms.
Witnessing traumatic experiences happen to someone else, or things like natural disasters can also leave people with symptoms. Traumatic experiences vary but they must leave the person feeling threatened or harmed in some way.
Children and Trauma
Children and trauma is a serious issue. Childhood trauma has a damaging impact on children as they age, especially if it continues for years or is left unresolved. Experiencing trauma at a young age causes children to develop reactions that affect their daily lives even after the event ends.
Children who experience trauma develop troublesome responses such as:
- Severe emotional turmoil
- Symptoms of depression or anxiety
- Behavioral changes
- Challenges with self-regulation
- Difficulties forming attachments
- Troubles relation to others
- Regression or loss of skills
- Attention or academic problems
- Disrupted sleeping or eating patterns
- Risky behavior
- Drug or alcohol use
Childhood trauma is especially trying because children have little to no control over their environment. If they’re in a situation where they’re experiencing ongoing violence, neglect, assault, or other trauma, they can’t easily escape it.
Traumatic experiences affect children of all ages. Infants and toddlers are not immune to the effects of trauma. Whether they retain vivid memories of the experiences or not, they affect how the child develops as they grow older. Trauma is often stored in the subconscious and can still lead to lasting behavioral and emotional difficulties.
Children who experience trauma require treatment if they want to regain a sense of normalcy and have a chance at proper development. Trauma treatment can interrupt children who are on a self-destructive path and at risk for harming themselves or others.
Someone who develops reactions to a traumatic experience is typically diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This serious condition affects the person’s daily life and their ability to carry out even the simplest of tasks at times. Anyone who experiences trauma is at risk of developing PTSD and will need trauma treatment to overcome it.
Trauma treatment involves therapeutic modalities like cognitive behavioral therapy and dialectical behavior therapy. But the most common method used to treat PTSD is eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy, or EMDR. EMDR is a form of therapy that helps a person reprocess the memories of their traumatic experiences to reduce reactivity.
EMDR combines a method called bilateral stimulation, which uses back and forth tactile taps, visual movement, or sounds, with traditional talk therapy. Research shows that EMDR is a beneficial form of trauma treatment and leads to reduced symptoms of PTSD.
Those with severe trauma disorders or who develop other conditions as a result, such as drug or alcohol abuse, may need more intensive care. Finding an inpatient program that specializes in working with individuals suffering from trauma and co-occurring disorders is vital to ensure treatment is effective.
Are you looking for trauma treatment for yourself or a loved one? Hawaii Island Recovery provides informed and compassionate treatment programs at our state-of-the-art facility located on the Big Island of Hawaii.
We understand the intricacies and difficulties that come with unpacking and overcoming trauma. It isn’t an easy or straightforward path, but with the right staff surrounding you, you can find a solution to your trauma.
Hawaii Island Recovery
Hawaii Island Recovery is a quality residential drug abuse treatment facility located in Kailua-Kona. By providing holistic addiction treatment programs in a serene environment, Hawaii Island Recovery can set you up for success.