What is Trauma and Traumatic Stress?

Trauma is an extremely subjective experience. What may be traumatic for one person may barely affect another. In a general sense though, trauma results when you experience excessive stress that overwhelms your emotional or physical ability to cope. While emotional trauma can result in the absence of any physical trauma, many times the two go hand-in-hand. For instance, the wounds from physical trauma like the loss of a limb or a gunshot wound, while an obvious shock to the body, will eventually heal. What the person is then left with, however, are the emotional wounds and repercussions of the actual traumatic event. Psychological trauma can last for many years, and if unresolved, can even become more devastating than the original traumatic event.

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When one door closes another door opens; but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us. - Author Unkown

Critical Incidents: When We Are Traumatized

In the US, according to the United States Federal Highway Commission, in 2003 there were 6,328,000 car accidents in which 2.9 million people were injured. In the US millions of people are victims of crime every year with a significant portion of that as violent crime. And while Canada has less violent crime overall than the US, tens of thousands are still victimized every year. This of course, does not account for the millions of people affected each year by any number of traumas like natural disasters, fires, war, or even those that have no physical component such as the death of a friend or an acrimonious divorce or break up. The bottom line is, after the physical wounds heal, the majority of people are still left to deal with the psychological aftermath of these traumatic experiences. If left unchecked, these emotional wounds can quickly fester into serious lasting psychological issues. Through counseling and therapy however, you can learn to release these emotional binds and just as the physical wounds of trauma eventually heal, so will the psychological scars.

What Causes Psychological Trauma?

As horrific as the traumatic event may seem, it’s not actually the event itself that causes someone to become traumatized. It’s that person’s internal reaction to the event that determines the degree and intensity of their trauma. This is why two people can be in the same plane crash for example, and one person can go on with life as usual after the event but the other almost immediately falls to pieces. Both people experience the same event but their reactions to that event have very different psychological implications. Much of how someone reacts is directly related to their history, coping skills, and emotional stability at the time. We also now know that when you experience a traumatic event, the structure and functioning capabilities of your brain are physically affected.

There are any number of traumatic events, but generally, they are categorized as either one-time or single-incident events or repeated, long-term traumas. One-time traumas include such things as hurricanes, plane crashes, rape, robbery, or the death of an employee. These types of traumas can result from natural causes or be deliberately inflicted by another person. A long term trauma is the result of a prolonged horrific experience such as an individual held captive or one who is repeatedly abused. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a frequent result of long-term trauma.

What Are the Symptoms of Someone who has been Traumatized?

Traumatic experiences can produce emotional, cognitive, and physical repercussions. Emotionally, trauma victims can become anxious, depressed, fearful, and withdrawn. They can have recurring panic attacks. Mentally, if you have experienced a trauma you will likely also experience concentration problems; you could have problems remembering things, and feel distracted much of the time. In extreme cases, people experience flashbacks of the event, nightmares, amnesia, and intense feelings of guilt. Physically, many people have eating and sleeping problems. They are regularly exhausted and often, they develop unexplained chronic pain.

How Do I Know When to Get Help?

Trauma can affect anyone at any age. The effects can be mild or severe, creating extreme psychological issues. Any symptoms of trauma should be taken seriously. In some cases however, the effects of trauma can manifest months and even years after the event, so in actuality, it can be difficult to recognize the symptoms. Often people feel they are weak for needing help, especially when they compare themselves to others who may have endured the same traumatic experience. But it is important to remember that everyone reacts differently to trauma and there is no guideline as to how and what someone should feel. What we do know is that the sooner you deal with the symptoms of trauma, the better chance you have for a full recovery and to be free of the effects of these events. If left unresolved, emotional trauma can affect your daily choices and functioning and ultimately, it can manifest into serious psychological disorders with lasting effects. Just as we need help to heal the physical effects of trauma, we also need help to heal the emotional wounds. Counseling offers a safe and supportive environment to work through these issues.

Counseling for the Resolution of Trauma

Working with a Values-Based counselor to address the effects of a trauma can be a confusing and frightening task to begin. Whether the events occurred in childhood, five years ago, or last week, the impact of these troubling situations is not something we are taught how to resolve. Often, the thought of going through the events again and seemingly reliving the tragedy may appear more than we can bear. When you work with a Theravive counselor who has been professionally trained in the resolution for trauma, he or she understands this apprehension and is committed to working through these issues at whatever pace is comfortable and safe for you.

Many times, we learn how to cope and manage the symptoms of a trauma. Whether this is learning to calm ourselves when we experience a panic attack upon the reminder of an event, or seeking solace in our friends when we experience depression or sadness over the effects of the trauma. While these are important and helpful methods to manage the symptoms, a trauma counsellor focuses on resolution of the originating feelings and emotions that require coping skills into the future. If individuals have a lack of safety or security as a result of an event that left them exposed, vulnerable, or violated, trauma counseling begins by establishing a sense of safety for the individual.

The Importance of the Crisis Counselor

The trauma counsellor utilizes specialized techniques to identify and work through the emotions that have been internalized from the event. Often, individuals do not think “I should be afraid”, rather it becomes a state of being that is used to protect from potential harm. However, when this protection leaves the individual feeling anxious rather than safe, or sad about past events rather than focused on future possibilities, the coping mechanisms lose their usefulness. It is at this point that we see many individuals seek crisis counselling, as the current coping skills are no longer able to manage the symptoms. For some, this collapse of internal coping mechanisms can result in an emotional and psychological breakdown.

We provide and refer counselors specially trained in trauma counseling who work to resolve the negative emotions that remain from the experiences you endured. Freedom from the overwhelming emotions and feelings is possible resulting in fewer burdens and an ability reclaim your life and future.

If you need a therapist to help you, we have a large selection of online therapists who are professional and licensed counselors, able to help you right where you are over the phone, via email, or webcam/messenger. If you prefer face to face counseling, please use our therapist directory and find a city close to you with a therapist who can meet your needs.


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