Psychological trauma is a type of damage to the mindbody that happens as a result of either a singular distressing event – or a multitude of stressful events over time – that exceeds our ability to cope. This can include (but isn’t limited to): physical, sexual, and emotional abuse, isolation, accidents, natural disasters, oppression, bullying, violence, life threatening situations, accidents, abandonment, or neglect. In fact, you can experience psychological trauma just by witnessing or learning about an event. In the case of secondary trauma, exposure to someone who has been traumatized becomes traumatic.
THE SCARS OF TRAUMA
The basics of our stress response system is our fight-or-flight reaction. The mindbody can take this to extremes during traumatic events. When flight to safety isn’t possible, flight from the present can be the next step. In such cases the mind may detach from the body, turn inward, and withdraw from its connection to the present moment. If the fight instinct is activated it can project immense energy outward, expressed in tension, explosive emotions (like anger), thoughts, and behaviors in order to gain control.
When psychological trauma occurs the mind undergoes some fundamental changes in its assumptions of reality. The mind may learn lessons like: the world is unsafe, other people are threats, or that the self does not have the tools to cope with reality. Sometimes the mind blames the self for trauma tells you that you are, unloveable, incomplete, or deserving of pain. These narratives shift people’s worldview and connection with the Self and as a result they become very sensitive to any sign of potential threats including: feeling trapped, close connections to others, isolation, or any physical, mental, or emotional reminders of the trauma.
As a whole psychological trauma disturbs thinking patterns, arousal, concentration, memory, sleep, appetite, attachment, and energy. Psychological makes it more difficult to regulate and self-soothe. Trauma can disrupt relationships, work, family, health and social lives.
Symptoms of Traumatic Stress Disorders
• Recurrent memories, thoughts, dreams, or nightmares that are about, or related in content to, the traumatic event(s)
• Flashbacks, feeling disconnected from body (some people describe it as though they are watching their life as it were a movie)
• The feeling that the world is fake/an illusion, or lack of awareness of surroundings.
• Attempts to avoid distressing thoughts, memories, emotions, or reminders about the event.
• Negative alterations of thoughts and mood. Inability to experience positive emotions
• Persistent negative beliefs or expectations about oneself or the world.
• Persistent negative emotional states: fear, horror, anger, guilt, sadness, shame, irritability.
• Loss of interest or reduced participation in normal activities
• Feeling detached or estranged from others.
• Amnesia about the events
• Explosive anger, irritability, or sadness/crying outbursts with little or no provocation.
• Reckless or self-destructive behaviors. Substance use to self-medicate.
• Feeling keyed up, tense, the need to know everything going on, constant worry
• Exaggerated startle responses
• Problems with concentration, or memory
• Impairment in social, work, school, family or other realms of functioning.