The American Psychological Association defines trauma as “an emotional response to an extremely negative event.” Traumatic stress reactions are normal responses to abnormal circumstances. They can be caused from one-time events, ongoing stress, or something that happened during childhood.
Here are 4 ways untreated trauma can impact our lives.
Common feelings experienced after a traumatic event can include anger, shame, fear, and sadness. It is not uncommon to feel a heightened level of anxiety, or overwhelming stress during this time. Some even report feelings of excessive or inappropriate guilt.
Many will describe feeling numb, or detached. This is a common coping mechanism that aims to protect us from further emotional pain. We shut out the world in an effort to regain control, and in this isolation, begin to lose interest in activities and relationships we once enjoyed.
Trauma resulting in mood swings, flashbacks, and self-destructive behaviors should not go untreated.
When a traumatic event occurs, it challenges our core beliefs and assumptions about the world that have helped us make sense of life up until this point.
Having our perceptions shattered can lead to cognitive changes that impact our future responses and decisions. For instance, we may misinterpret a situation based on previous unrelated trauma.
Other thought-process changes associated with trauma and PTSD may include problems with memory, problem solving, and planning. In more extreme cases, nightmares, idealization, or hallucinations and delusions can occur. It is critical to seek help when these cognitive changes lead to high-risk behaviors, depression, or self-harm.
Studies show there is a significant connection between trauma, adverse childhood experiences, and chronic health conditions. These warning signs should not be ignored.
Physical symptoms of trauma can include but are not limited to: fatigue, insomnia, aches and pains, muscle tension, and being easily startled. Some experience a racing heartbeat and have difficulty concentrating. The physical response to trauma can vary widely, and there are many support strategies to accelerate recovery.
It is believed that healthy sleep patterns after a traumatic event can help reduce intrusive trauma-related memories. Conversely, poor sleep patterns can lead to more serious physical problems such as high blood pressure, heart attack, and diabetes. Sleep plays an important role in recovery.
Behavioral changes after a traumatic event are extremely common. This is an attempt to manage the intensity of our emotions, the aftereffects of the experience, or the aspects of the experience that are the most distressing.
A common behavioral change is a heightened state of anxiety or hyperarousal. This is when the body is unnecessarily on high alert for periods of time, causing irritability and lasting stress long after the traumatic event.
Avoidance behaviors, self-medicating, and compulsive/impulsive behaviors are also very common coping mechanisms.
If you have untreated trauma that is negatively impacting your life, don’t wait another day to get help. Contact us to schedule your first session today.