Many of us know trauma can cause lasting mental and physical health issues. But sometimes, even those who have lived through traumatic experiences do not recognize them as such. It can be difficult to identify trauma for what it is.
This is partially because it is only recently that the stigma around talking about trauma has lessened. In addition, it’s all too easy to doubt our own experiences and tell ourselves that something was “not that bad.”
Learning about what trauma means and how it can affect us is the first step to deepening your understanding. Let’s explore what trauma is, the various causes, and how it can be treated.
What is Trauma?
There is no strict definition for trauma, but traumatic experiences and their aftermaths share some commonalities. “Trauma” refers to the emotional response to an event in which the victim’s safety or wellbeing was threatened in some way.
Someone who has lived through a traumatic event may feel shocked or try to minimize the impact in the aftermath. However, ignoring the effects of trauma can lead to long-term symptoms, including mental and physical health conditions.
What Causes Trauma?
Which events quality as traumatic experiences? Again, there are no strict categories or hard and fast rules. But many people who go through natural disasters or sudden accidents experience trauma afterward.
Witnessing events like these can also be traumatic for bystanders. Even if the person was not in immediate danger during the event, the perception of danger to themselves or to someone else can be enough to have a long-term impact.
Accidents and natural disasters are not the only experiences that can leave someone struggling with trauma. Trauma can also occur within the context of interpersonal relationships.
For example, someone who was in a relationship with an abusive partner or grew up in a neglectful household may suffer from the effects of trauma. Someone could be traumatized after working in a toxic environment, especially if they faced harassment or abuse from their managers or coworkers.
It can often take time for people to recognize the effects of such relationships, which means that people can have trouble determining when it is time to leave such situations.
The Goal of Trauma Treatment
Clearly, trauma can change someone’s life in negative ways for years after the event itself. But treatment is often effective, and many people who lived through trauma or have been diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder benefit greatly from undergoing treatment.
What are the goals of trauma treatment? While everyone’s treatment plan is unique, it generally involves working to improve your symptoms, develop coping skills, and boosting your self-esteem.
Treatment proceeds at your own pace. A good therapist will not try to rush you through the process. They may also recommend healthy lifestyle changes to support your mental and physical wellbeing when applicable.
Modalities for Healing Trauma
What kind of approach does a therapist use to treat trauma? This completely depends on the client’s needs. The therapist will help validate to the client that the traumatic incident was not their fault.
They might focus on helping a person who has suffered from trauma break down their negative thought patterns and rebuild new, evidence-based beliefs that will better serve them.
In addition, the client might spend time on exposure therapy. This entails being exposed to their triggers gradually in a safe, controlled environment until they feel desensitized to the trigger.
If you suspect that your emotional struggles are rooted in trauma, talking to a therapist can help you heal. Reach out to us today to discuss your options for scheduling your first session.