Are The Effects of Trauma Affecting Your Wellbeing?
- Are you struggling to recover from a trauma?
- Has unresolved trauma from childhood, perhaps through abuse or neglect, affected your mental and physical wellbeing as an adult?
- Do you have flashbacks, intrusive memories or nightmares? Take our PTSD test to find out if you are struggling with PTSD.
- Is it hard for you to connect with or trust others?
- Are you afraid you will never be able to move forward?
- Do you wish you could just relax, physically and emotionally?
A trauma can be caused by a specific event (like an accident or an assault), a recurring event (like combat exposure or repeated abuse) or a developmental or childhood trauma (like physical or emotional neglect in childhood). Trauma can also be caused by many other frightening situations, such as bullying, abuse, rape, crime, war, victimization and shaming/humiliation. When we are in the presence of dangers like these, our bodies get ready to respond, changing physiologically to prepare to deal with the situation. This is an adaptive response when there is a threat present, but sometimes the body is not able to turn it off after the danger has passed. Whether you have been exposed to a life or death situation, or have experienced something in childhood that your body interpreted as a dangerous situation, the effect is the same.
The trauma lives on, whether in the form of PTSD or other states of arousal, feelings of dread, doom, anxiety, avoidance, uncontrolled emotional reactions, or physical symptoms. Many people experience some form of trauma in their lives, but it can impact us in different ways. Trauma can have a lasting impact on you both emotionally and physically. Your nervous system, endocrine system and memory may all be impacted. Physiologically, you are likely to be in a state of high arousal and anxiety or very low arousal, as in depression. You might feel depressed and hopeless, angry and irritable, or anxious and fearful. You might struggle with feelings of shame and self-blame. You could find yourself feeling isolated or disconnected from others, finding it difficult to trust people or feeling rejected. You might have physical symptoms such as muscle aches, fatigue, and chronic pain. These feelings can be painful and make it difficult to feel at peace in your life. If you’re feeling this way, you’re not alone.
Trauma impacts everyone differently and can lead to an anxiety disorder, depression, compulsive behaviors such as overeating an eating disorder, or substance use or even post traumatic stress disorder.
All trauma can cause problems in relationships, and it may be difficult to know what you feel at times. You may have heightened sensitivity to stimuli—sound, temperature, light etc. Life may feel overwhelming, and you may suffer from migraines, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia or other chronic medical conditions. You may feel anxious around other people, particularly in groups. Sometimes, you may feel that it is safer to disconnect from your body, your emotions, and from other people and feel numb.
The good news is that trauma therapy can help you move past the trauma you have experienced without reliving it, and find new ways to relate to yourself and others.
If you experienced developmental trauma in childhood, you may not even be aware that some of your mental health issues are related to your early history. Developmental trauma can result from things like emotional neglect, physical or sexual abuse, shame, overly critical parents, being told you were not wanted, childhood medical issues, not being held enough in infancy and many other difficult early childhood experiences.
Early child trauma experiences can impact you whether or not you remember them, affecting your health and immune system and triggering anxiety or mood swings. Developmental trauma is psychologically similar to the trauma experienced in post-traumatic stress disorder. If you struggle with developmental or psychological trauma, you may feel like you are constantly being rejected.
Have You Experienced Traumatic Stress?
- Do you experience distressing memories or dreams?
- Do you feel your life lacks pleasure due to feeling numb?
- Do you find yourself preparing for the worst?
- Is it difficult to let go of tense feelings, even when trying to sleep?
When we experience a particularly threatening situation or loss, especially when feeling helpless or unsafe, the experience can become “frozen” in our brain. Along with the memory are the negative feelings, thoughts, and sensations associated with that experience. Over time, if you think of the experience again, all the negative thoughts, feelings, and sensations can flood back in as the experience or trauma memory is not yet fully processed. For example, when reminded of the experience, you might notice that you feel anxious, your heart starts racing, your breathing increases and becomes more shallow, you feel like withdrawing or avoiding the situation and you may have intrusive thoughts about the experience. If you’re experiencing flashbacks, nightmares or intrusive memories of the trauma, you may be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD.
What is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?
PTSD can occur following an event that is threatening or feels overwhelming or uncontrollable. It can be a specific event such as an accident, rape, war, natural disaster, or a death of a loved one. It can also be an ongoing stressor such as abuse, interpersonal conflict, abandonment, bullying, or prolonged stress. In these situations, people often experience a lack of safety or control, or a sense of powerlessness or helplessness. You also don’t have to experience the situation first-hand to develop PTSD. People who witness or hear about trauma from others can also develop PTSD. PTSD symptoms can begin soon after the event, or months, even years later.
When you have PTSD, the symptoms seem to stick around and don’t get better with time.
The symptoms themselves may arise suddenly or when triggered by something reminding you of the traumatic experience. PTSD treatment can be an important tool to help you learn to feel safe and secure again.
Common PTSD Symptoms
Typically, PTSD symptoms fall into the following categories:
1. Stressor: experiencing, witnessing or indirectly experiencing (such as via someone else) a significant threat (or perceived threat) to one’s life or safety.
2. The stressor is intrusive: you re-experience the traumatic event via intrusive memories, nightmares, flashbacks, high levels of stress in response to reminders of the event, and/or physical symptoms in response to reminders.
3. Avoidance: you tend to avoid thoughts or feelings reminding you of the trauma as well as reminders such as people and places.
4. Impact on your thoughts and mood: you may experience an inability to remember details, have negative beliefs about oneself (e.g., “I am bad”), blame yourself or others for the trauma, experience negative emotions (fear, horror, anger, shame), have a lack of interest in significant activities, and/or an inability to experience positive emotions.
5. Reactivity and arousal: you may experience irritability, reckless behavior, hypervigilance, heightened startle response, difficulty concentrating, and/or sleep disturbance.
6. Detachment: for some people (not all), you may feel detached from oneself or as if things aren’t real.
PTSD can be very scary both emotionally and physically. If you are experiencing PTSD symptoms, it’s important to recognize them and know that help is available. It might feel overwhelming to imagine even thinking about the source of your PTSD again. EMDR therapy for PTSD is a very safe and effective way to process your experience, reduce your symptoms and move on without having to relive all the details. You don’t have to live with these symptoms. PTSD treatment can help you get unstuck and return to feeling like yourself again.
Trauma & PTSD Treatment Can Help You Move Past Trauma Into A Balanced Future
In trauma and PTSD treatment, one of our experienced, compassionate trauma specialists can help you work with your body, emotions, identity and beliefs to find healing. In therapy sessions, there is a focus on creating connections, both in the counseling relationship and within the rest of your life. You can learn the skills you need to safely connect with yourself and others. Many of our clients report feeling less alone and more connected to their minds and bodies during and after trauma counseling. Reconnecting with and healing the body can be a process, but it is possible to feel solid and grounded again or maybe even for the first time. You can connect with others. You can feel less ashamed. You can learn skills to get unstuck and regain a sense of calm and safety. And you can learn coping skills and stress management skills for when things feel difficult.
Your therapist can teach you skills to treat PTSD symptoms, and regulate difficult thoughts, emotions and physical symptoms as you begin coping with trauma and responding to the word in a calmer, healthier way. There are many trauma informed therapy approaches. Your therapist may use both cognitive behavior therapy, cognitive processing therapy, and body-centered approaches meeting you where you are emotionally so you can get your body functioning normally.
Using effective, proven trauma therapies, such as Somatic Experiencing, EMDR and trauma-focused therapy, your body can become a safe place to inhabit. Your mind can let go of painful images, thoughts or beliefs. In counseling, you can also talk through the shame and self-judgment that you may be feeling and begin to replace those feelings with self-acceptance and joy.
Through trauma therapy, you can experience a reduction in anxiety, increased self-worth and feelings of empowerment instead of powerlessness. You can get “back to normal” or maybe experience feelings of calm and contentment for the first time. In the present moment, you can find safety, strength and resiliency.
Treatment of PTSD and trauma has the added benefit of potentially healing physical symptoms and increasing your immune system as your body heals.
You may feel that trauma therapy can help you recover from trauma, but you may still have questions and concerns.
Thinking about what happened to me is really frightening, and I don’t like to talk about it.
PTSD symptoms often include painful flashbacks of the event, and you may worry that talking about the trauma will cause this to happen. These feelings are completely understandable. But, avoiding talking or thinking about your traumatic experience won’t make it go away. Rather, you may become afraid not only of the event itself, but of anything that triggers memories of it. This can limit your life and keep you from feeling free. Your therapist can help you move through the trauma recovery process at your own pace and make sure that you feel safe at all times. The treatment process may be difficult at times, but your therapist can help you begin to experience the world as a safe place. Typically, it is not necessary to focus on a traumatic memory in order to heal and complete trauma processing. Treatment for PTSD and trauma is focused instead on helping you get unstuck and feeling safe and secure.
Do I need trauma therapy? Won’t I just get over this after enough time has passed?
We are often told that time heals all wounds, but frequently after a trauma, people replay events, experience flashbacks and get stuck in a loop of persistent thoughts and images of the events. You may feel stuck, with your normal fight or flight responses disrupted. Instead of being able to move forward, you feel frozen. Being stuck can affect your ability to stand up for yourself. You may struggle to be assertive. It can be hard to express anger, hard to say no, and this can have negative effects on your life. All of these things are difficult to understand and move through without help. There is no shame in seeking help and support while working through trauma. You don’t have to stay stuck, and your therapist can help you recover from trauma as easily as possible.
I think I may be struggling with developmental trauma, but I’m not sure.
Maybe the description of developmental trauma above resonated with you, but you don’t remember any traumas from childhood. It is very common not to remember events that you experienced as traumatic in childhood, and it can be hard to figure out the origin of symptoms you are struggling with now. The bottom line, however, is that if you are experiencing trauma symptoms that are impacting your ability to feel good and function with ease, it may be worth exploring your symptoms and history with one of our trauma therapists.
There is Hope
Research has identified proven methods for treating PTSD and trauma symptoms. If you have been struggling with symptoms described on this page, or other unexplained symptoms, trauma therapy may be helpful for you. Our therapists who work with trauma have been trained specifically in the use of trauma therapies to help you resolve your symptoms effectively. It can take time to heal, but it can benefit multiple aspects of your life: physical, emotional, relational, and more.
If you are ready to start healing, give us a call at 832-559-2622 or schedule an appointment online. You can also contact us to find out more about our trauma therapy in Houston.