What is trauma?
What is trauma?
Trauma is a word used by behavioral health professionals to refer to a disturbing or distressing event in a patient or client’s past. It can be something that happened when you were a kid, or something that happened yesterday.
Some counselors may even distinguish between “little” trauma and “big” trauma. Little trauma doesn’t mean it wasn’t a big deal by any stretch of the imagination. Think: an alcoholic father who belittles and abuses every. Single. Day.
Big trauma is more like big, one-time events. Think: a car wreck where your child doesn’t survive.
Examples of trauma
It’s also important to note that there are many, many things that can be considered traumatic. In fact, anything that happens to you that you find deeply distressing is considered traumatic. ESPECIALLY if the hurtful event or events have left emotional turmoil. Some examples of trauma are:
- witnessing a murder
- having a mentally ill parent or loved one
- dealing with mental illness yourself
- psychological abuse
- wartime hostility and violence
- medical emergencies/surgeries/illnesses
- having a job that is high stress
- physical abuse
- natural disasters such as hurricanes, violent storms, flooding, fires
- losing someone or something you loved dearly
- experiencing a horrible car accident
And that’s just to name a few.
Too often, clients believe that their trauma doesn’t “rank” high enough on the imaginary scale of pain. But that’s just not the way it works. We have little control over how our brains interpret what is going on around us. Our brain’s ability to cope with significant and disturbing events depends largely on family of origin, exposures to previous traumas, mental disorder or illness, and how the trauma is dealt with.
Individuals who have experienced previous trauma are at higher risk for suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder or other emotional scarring after a subsequent incident. Say a woman was raised in a home with a mother who was bipolar and was often abusive verbally and emotionally. If said woman was then in a moderately serious car accident as an adult, she would be at higher risk for post-traumatic stress disorder after the car accident.
Post-traumatic stress disorder
PTSD.va.gov defines PTSD as “is a mental health problem that some people develop after experiencing or witnessing a life-threatening event, like combat, a natural disaster, a car accident, or sexual assault.”
Symptoms include, but aren’t limited to:
- reliving the event through memories and nightmares
- feeling keyed up, nervousness, anxiety
- avoiding situations that remind you of the event
- increasing depression, anxiety, irritability
- overwhelming negative beliefs and feelings about oneself
- shame, guilt, hopelessness
- trouble maintaining relationships
- difficulty holding a job
If you think that you may suffer from PTSD, I highly encourage you to find a trained EMDR therapist. To read more about EMDR and how it works, you can see my post here.
If you’re in the East Texas area, I’d love to work with you. You can reach me at Jodi.A.Spencer@gmail.com or 903 392 6151.