The first step in healing from emotional trauma, or psychological trauma, is acknowledging that you were subjected to a traumatic event and that you have developed sensitivities, insecurities, or emotional reactions to situations that would otherwise not trigger you. Trauma is common and sometimes difficult to overcome. If you feel like your experience is making it hard for you to live and love your life, you must take steps to heal.
Have you been exposed to an event that’s left you feeling vulnerable, upset, and unable to forget or move on from the pain? Are you experiencing uncontrollable anxiety, distrust of people you once felt comfortable with, and bouts of unexplainable depression? Do you often feel numb to or disconnected from your environment, or unable to cope with and control your emotions? If you’ve gone through an upsetting experience, whether recently or years ago, you may have been traumatized.
Emotional trauma, or psychological trauma, is more common than you think. In fact, 61% of men and 51% of women report experiencing at least one traumatic event in their lifetime, and 90% of people in a public behavioral health care setting have experienced trauma. It’s completely normal to feel a range of emotional reactions to unpleasant situations. However, taking steps to heal from a traumatic incident is necessary to alleviate its adverse effects and live a more positive and fulfilling life.
What is emotional trauma?
Emotional trauma is damage to the psyche as a result of an extremely stressful, unexpected and, harrowing event. This emotional reaction can affect an individual’s ability to cope, leaving them immobilized, disconnected, and profoundly stressed.
It’s essential to understand what causes emotional trauma to distinguish the difference between stress due to a present situation and stress due to a situation that’s already passed. While you may react to a stressful stimulant in real-time, you may not carry that stress home with you. Whereas with emotional trauma, the effects can take a toll on the mind and body long after the occurrence.
Though the list is long, some common types of trauma include loss of a job, a health condition or injury, loss of a loved one, a troubling childhood event, divorce or a relationship ending, surgery, sexual abuse, domestic violence, and miscarriage.
Signs and Symptoms of Trauma
Every person who experiences a trauma will react differently; there is no one way, right way, or wrong way. Coping with any trauma can present a bevy of unique challenges from both an emotional and physical standpoint. However, there are some common signs and symptoms that one may respond with, particularly the feeling of extreme emotions, or a complete lack thereof.
For example, one widower could be overcome with negative emotions, thoughts, and tears after the loss of a loved one, while another may feel completely numb to the loss and find trouble feeling or expressing their pain.
Trauma can impact your mental health tremendously, sometimes rapidly, sometimes slowly over time. So, what does emotional trauma feel like? Some possible psychological effects include:
- Anxiety or fear
- Low self-esteem
- Flashbacks to the traumatic event
- Emotional detachment
- Feeling sad or hopeless
- Panic Attacks
- Irritability, Anger, Mood swings
- Difficulty concentrating
How to Heal from Trauma
There is so much information available on how to heal from injuries and physical trauma – clean the wound, put on a bandage, take antibiotics, seek treatment from a doctor, etc. But what about healing from emotional trauma? How can you get over PTSD or some traumatic experience that’s left you feeling helpless, frightened, detached, overwhelmed, or unable to face daily life circumstances?
Once you have accepted that you have experienced trauma, there are several steps you can take to alleviate trauma symptoms to begin the healing process:
- Seek help from a professional. This is
one of the bravest steps anyone can take when experiencing the after-effects of
trauma. If your stressors are crippling, a mental health expert can help you
navigate the grief, fear, or anxiety that has consumed you. For example,
cognitive behavioral therapy can help you process the thoughts surrounding your
trauma and understand how your mind deconstructs them. Rather than ignoring or
avoiding the source of the problem, you can learn to accept the difficult
memories and face your feelings head-on.
- Avoid isolation. While it may be tempting
to close yourself off from your friends and family, isolation supports trauma
– it fuels those negative feelings. Rather than avoiding the people that care
about you, allow them to communicate with and support you during this difficult
time. Ask for support, be transparent about how you are feeling, and surround
yourself with people who care for your well-being.
- Join a support group. Little feels better
than finding people who can relate to your experience(s) and understand what
you are going through. A support group is a safe place to not only talk about
the occurrence or trigger but also how it’s affected your life. You can relieve
the burden weighing down on your shoulders and even gain insight into how
others have dealt with their situations.
- Rediscover and maintain your routine.
Emotional trauma can derail you, disrupting your day-to-day routine, and
ultimately stealing the comforting sense of control in life. By returning to
your regular schedule as early as possible, you can re-introduce normalcy that
you can count on.
- Address “inconsequential” conflicts. Don’t
let small issues consume your life and add to the stress you are already
feeling. By taking the time to iron out small, manageable problems, you are
both taking control and avoiding potential triggers. For example, if your
license expired and you have been putting off the renewal process… address it.
This small and seemingly arduous task can fuel your positive progression and
leave room for you to focus on the elephant in the room, the bigger picture.
- Exercise regularly. You will often hear me recommending exercise as a healing mechanism for almost any emotionally taxing situation. This is because moving, loosening your muscles, and getting your blood flowing is one of the most effective ways to find calm and balance in life.
We all experience emotional or psychological trauma to some degree in our lifetimes. Troubling experiences can be difficult to move on from, and it can take some time to get over the pain and find a sense of peace and safety. Whether you take big steps or baby steps toward recovery, you’re starting… and that’s all that matters.