First let me apologize to my readers for no posts over the last two weeks. My computer is down and I have had to do my writing at work. Since I usually do my writing on my computer at home in the early morning hours when I can’t sleep, using the computer at work has really slowed me down. However, I hope to have my computer back and right as rain soon. In the meantime, let’s finish up the discussion of trauma symptoms in this post.
The remaining symptoms fall under the categories of avoidance and altered arousal, also viewed as avoidance and physical symptoms. To understand these symptoms, it is worth remembering the basic nature of trauma: Trauma results from an experience, which is unexpected, sudden, and which leaves you feeling powerless and out of control. It may be caused by a one-time experience or from repeated exposure and is most apt to lead to symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder if it occurs in childhood.
With this in mind, it is very reasonable that you would avoid places, people, and experiences reminiscent of the trauma experience. If you cannot avoid them, anxiety or panic attack may result. Such anxiety and panic attacks can eventually lead to an inability to leave your home, known as agoraphobia. Another way of dealing with the anxiety may be developing flashbacks or very disturbing intrusive memories, nightmares, or other forms of feeling stuck in the trauma.
The physical symptoms such as muscle tension, aches, pains, and fatigue that may result from trauma may represent another form of distraction to keep you separated from the trauma.
Other physical symptoms of trauma may feel beyond your control too, symptoms such as a racing heart, increased startle reflect that leaves you very jumpy, and edginess and agitation. These are purely biological responses that come from the split-off part of the trauma, which resides deep in the brain. Although the thinking part of your brain may realize that the trauma is over, survival takes priority and all those symptoms are the result of your body and brain doing the best they can to protect you from further trauma.
Once you recognize that the symptoms make sense, it is easier to accept the need to seek out some help. Everyone heals from trauma at their own pace. So try to not judge yourself by another person’s experience. However, if months have passed and your symptoms aren’t easing or are evening worsening, it may be time to get professional help.
As a rule of thumb, if any of the following are a problem consider getting professional help now:
- Excessive fear, anxiety, or depression
- Difficulty forming close satisfying relationships, or feeling emotionally numb or disconnected from others
- Scary or painful memories, nightmares, or flashbacks
- Inability to function at home or work
- Using substances, sex, or other activities to feel better
Now that you have a good idea of what symptoms may result from trauma and understand why they occur, it’s time to decide if you need to reach out for some help to deal with your trauma.
Next week, I’ll share a few self-help strategies to try, as well as offer some ideas of the ways a professional counselor can be helpful.
As always, if you or someone you love is suffering from a traumatic experience, consider seeing a counselor. You don’t need to suffer alone.
Call me now! Find the peace you deserve.