When someone talks about trauma or post-traumatic stress disorder it is easy to think of a soldier or a person being in a major conflict. But, trauma can affect anyone at any age and in a variety of situations. While it is true that many civilians and soldiers in war zones and conflicts suffer from PTSD, trauma can come from neglect, bereavement, abuse, and many other sources.
If someone else is suffering from the effects of trauma it may not be obvious what the cause of their behavior is. If it is yourself that has symptoms of a trauma you may not realize what is causing these problems initially and sometimes the effects come out long after the incident occurred. The effects of trauma can cause harm mentally, physically, and they can affect your life in general so they need to be treated.
What is Trauma?
A traumatic event can be described as something that puts you at risk of physical harm or even death. It may be a situation that leaves you helpless and frightened. This could be one individual event or a series of ongoing and repeated incidents such as physical or emotional abuse.
Traumatism can be caused by many things depending on the individual but common sources of trauma include:
- Serious accidents (motor vehicle etc)
- Violence (mugging, war, etc)
- Abuse or neglect (child or adult)
- Serious illness
- Relationship breakdowns
- Living in fear (crime-ridden area)
The Covid pandemic is an example of a traumatic stressor. The virus has not only caused widespread infections and death but has also caused mass trauma as people become distressed and fearful for their lives and their loved ones. Quarantines and lockdowns mean people have to find ways to keep fit at home during the pandemic but it also affects mental health and it is important to be aware of this.
How do you know if you are suffering from trauma?
The effects of trauma manifest in emotional & psychological symptoms as well as physical ones. These symptoms can affect the health of the sufferer and are linked to diabetes, heart disease, and other problems.
Some signs of trauma to watch for may include anxiety, depression, and feeling afraid. You may have flashbacks and nightmares or you may not even recall the incident. You might struggle to be close to your partner and may suffer outbursts of anger. Someone suffering from trauma may display different symptoms than another person.
The psychological and emotional symptoms may include:
- Confusion, difficulty in focusing on a subject
- Mood swings and outbursts
- Feeling shame and guilt
- Anxiety and depression
- Shock and disbelief
Physical symptoms to look for include:
- Constant tiredness or feeling fatigued
- Heart palpitations and racing heartbeat
- Feeling agitated
- Easily startled
- General aches and pains
Not everyone will show the same symptoms and they may only have a few of these. If you suspect your partner is not coping well in the aftermath of trauma then you may notice things such as mood swings and outbursts, not eating normally, sleeping too much or too little, and being anxious and overly worried.
How do the effects of trauma affect people?
The impact of trauma cannot be underestimated. It not only impacts on daily life and the sufferers’ loved ones but if you were living with these symptoms it would curtail your professional and personal prospects. Without treatment, a trauma victim will find it hard to be successful in their career, form close relationships, and enjoy normal activities.
Seeking help for the effects of trauma
Everyone knows how important it is to eat healthily and workout but mental health is often overlooked. It is important to care for your mental health as well as your physical wellbeing and if you or a loved one is showing signs of a trauma you should seek help.
Firstly, it is important to speak to a professional for diagnosis as you may be suffering from something else such as depression or an anxiety disorder. Secondly, if left untreated the symptoms can become worse and your quality of life will deteriorate. Left untreated, sufferers can often withdraw, self-harm, self-medicate with alcohol and drugs, become depressed, and even suicidal.
What treatment is there?
There are various treatments for PTSD and these include exposure therapy, cognitive behavior therapy, and medication.
Exposure therapy will let you relive certain aspects of your trauma in a safe environment. With the help of a CBT therapist, you will talk through and relive areas of your traumatic event which over time will reduce your sensitivity to these triggers.
CBT or cognitive behavior therapy involves talking through all the negative thoughts and feelings you have with your therapist. The aim of this is to minimize the negative impact these thoughts have on your life and turn the way you think about the traumatic event into something healthier.
Medications such as Zoloft and Paxil can help with certain symptoms of PTSD such as anxiety and depression through therapy is often needed to help with all the side effects of trauma.
Seeking out therapy will help you improve the quality of life. And remove the barriers that are stopping you from being successful. Therapy on its own or with medication over time will lessen the dark thoughts and other symptoms that are impairing your everyday life, work, and relationships.