Just the Facts: Trauma
What is trauma?
Trauma is a reaction when a person is overwhelmed by events or circumstances and responds with intense fear, horror, and helplessness. Extreme trauma can override a person’s capacity to cope and can cause a number of physical health conditions as well, such as diabetes, COPD, heart disease, cancer and high blood pressure.
How common is it?
70% of adults in the U.S. have experienced some type of traumatic event at least once in their lives. That translates to more than 223-million people. In behavioral health the numbers go up—more than 90% of clients have experienced trauma.
What causes it?
Trauma experiences include such things as:
• Childhood abuse or neglect
• Physical, emotional or sexual abuse
• Accidents and natural disasters
• Grief and loss
• War and other violent acts
• Witnessing acts of violence
• Medical interventions and certain medications
• Cultural, intergenerational and historical trauma
How do its effects show up?
• Headaches, backaches, stomach aches, etc.
• More susceptible to colds and illnesses
• Sudden sweating and/or heart palpitations
• Changes in sleep patterns, appetite, interest in sex
• Constipation or diarrhea
• Easily startled by noises or unexpected touch
• Increased use of alcohol or drugs and/or overeating
• Emotional swings, including fear, depression, anxiety, or outbursts of anger or rage
• Self-blame, survivor guilt, or shame
• Diminished interest in everyday activities
• Nightmares and flashbacks — re-experiencing the trauma
• Difficulty with memory, concentration, and making decisions
• Regular conflict with others
• Tendency to become isolated or detached, difficulty trusting and/or feeling betrayed
• Poor performance at work or school
What can help?
• Acknowledge that you have been through traumatic events (be honest)
• Connect with others, especially those who are more likely to be supportive
• Exercise & Relaxation—walking, jogging, yoga, stretching, meditation, massage
• Maintain a balanced diet and sleep cycle
• Avoid over-using stimulants like caffeine, sugar, and nicotine or depressants like alcohol and marijuana
• Take up music, art, or other hobbies or interests
• Commit to something personally meaningful and purposeful every day
• Write about your experience for yourself or to share with others
What if that’s not enough?
• See a professional therapist specifically trained in dealing with trauma
• Seek Cognitive Behavioral Therapies such as Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT) or Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT)
• Request Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy
• Peer Support Groups