How do we tell that one is going through something traumatic? How far can something distressing impact us? How does one even begin to overcome and heal from it? Trauma is characterized by the physical, psychological, and emotional toll it takes on the victim when they feel that their safety or sanity is threatened.
One may ask, “What is categorized as a traumatic event?” Well, the answer to that lies with us. Traumatic events may be a single event or a continuous process, which range from commonly overlooked life events to extremely terrifying ones. These affect children, adults, and elders alike. Most of the time, what classifies as a traumatic event depends more so on how we tend to respond to it than it does on the trigger. It is simply subjective hence it lies within us.
Trauma symptoms may last for a few days, weeks, or even months. Instances similar to the event can cause the symptoms to resurface, triggering them. Typical triggers include, but are not limited to, the loss of control, disastrous incidents, betrayal, memories, abuse of power, helplessness, pain, confusion, isolation, and/or loss.
How does it affect people?
Many people have a hard time coping with their trauma. Coping mechanisms typically get in the way of functioning normally and are accompanied by immense emotion, making one feel overwhelmed or on the other hand, with numbness.
Trauma symptoms may result in emotional and psychological imbalance that is commonly described as shock, denial, confusion, difficulty concentrating, and temper issues. Children who go through trauma are more likely to blame themselves for the occurrence of the event. Feeling depressed, helpless, ashamed, anxious, and/or afraid are also common symptoms that could cause one to distance themselves emotionally or even physically.
Many cases report victims dealing with recurring images, sounds, smells i.e. flashbacks of the event as a trigger, due to their senses being heightened during the event. Trauma adversely affects people’s beliefs about reality, their future, and other inevitable life events. They tend to avoid normal activities, the trauma getting in the way of their living.
Apart from the emotional and psychological symptoms, physical symptoms include disturbance in sleep patterns, disordered appetite, fatigue, and other ailments that affect the cardiovascular, skeletal, and muscular systems along with other systems. The physical aspect is also conspicuous as most victims tend to participate in self-harm behaviors such as cutting, burning, hair pulling, etc. Trauma also pushes most of its victims to self-medicate, getting them involved in substance abuse to regain a sense of balance or control.
These symptoms of trauma may persist for a short term or continue for a longer period. With regard to time, if the symptoms last for less than a month it is categorized as Acute Stress Disorder (ASD), or if more, it comes under Post Trauma Stress Disorder (PTSD) and many other such disorders.
Trauma needn't be a large scale life event
Though dealing with trauma may feel like a never-ending process, it is critical that we do not let these unfortunate occurrences define us and that we resolve the turmoil rooted deep within us. There are plenty of healthy and helpful means to regulate one's response to trauma until one feels better.
People are often advised to seek professional help such as therapy. Meditation instills feelings of calm and being in control. Further, exercising not only helps restore the victim’s connection with their own body but also helps with fixing sleeping patterns and bodily problems that interfere with their health. Bonding with family and loved ones could go a long way in recovery.
While trying to help a loved one tide over their trauma, we must approach them with care, understanding, and most importantly, patience. We can support them by carrying out mundane tasks that they face difficulty with, with them, or by encouraging them to socialize and relax. However, we must make sure to not pressurize them into doing anything they're hesitant to and must let them know that you’re there for them.
Traumatic events can strike just about anyone. However, it is important that the effects it has are resolved and do not get in the way of the person’s functioning.