Psychological trauma is defined as any kind of damage to the mind that occurs as the result of a distressing experience.
While physical trauma leaves scars that are visible to the naked eye, the damage inflicted by psychological trauma is often invisible.
And yet, despite this, it is no less damaging.
If left unresolved, psychological trauma resulting from distressing or dangerous events can lead to conditions such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, a serious mental illness that is a direct product of excessive trauma.
Even without developing into PTSD, psychological trauma can have enormous health consequences for the afflicted. Those who already struggle with a mental illness, or who have a genetic susceptibility to mental illness, may find their symptoms getting worse as a result of the trauma.
Because the damage inflicted by psychological trauma often goes unrecognized due to its "invisible" nature, it is crucial that those who struggle with the aftermath of a traumatic event be able to recognize their symptoms and find healthy ways to cope.
While psychological trauma is often associated with events in which the victim is exposed to violence or other forms of physical danger, such as war or assault, psychological trauma can develop as a result of any form of distressing event.
It is important to recognize the various causes of trauma, as the belief that certain traumatic events are not "serious enough" to cause psychological disturbance can act as an obstacle to receiving treatment, and create needless, prolonged suffering.
The first step is the most difficult.
Effective Ways to Cope with Trauma
Regardless of whether or not an individual seeks treatment, most survivors of traumatic events look to cope with their trauma in one way or another.
While some of these methods may be beneficial, others are extremely unhealthy and self-destructive.
It is crucial that those who are coping with trauma make use of healthy coping mechanisms, as self-destructive coping methods can have disastrous consequences for those involved. The abuse of alcohol or other drugs is one such popular, yet dangerous method of coping with trauma.
The best thing a trauma survivor can do to help cope is to seek the help of a qualified professional. Whether that treatment involves medication, talk therapy, or some combination of the two is something that can only be determined with the consultation of a doctor trained specifically in the treatment of mental illness and trauma.
While seeking professional help is the ideal method of dealing with trauma, other safe, helpful strategies can be employed by those who are in distress.
Relaxing forms of exercise, such as...
...can help survivors deal with negative thoughts and feelings in a way that is healthy and safe.
THAN THE FIRE
Additionally, self-care is of the utmost importance when it comes to recovery.
...can all help enormously in managing the ill feelings that come with trauma.
Remember, trauma often manifests itself as any number of physical (or "somatic") symptoms.
Headaches, digestive issues, and new forms of chronic pain can all be the result of trauma.
Doing everything you can to make your body feel well is a vital part of ensuring that the negative effects of trauma are limited.
While this alone may not cure you of the trauma symptoms, it will go a long way in making you feel better, and setting you up for recovery down the road.
Trauma Counseling and Therapy
Facing trauma can be one of the toughest things a survivor has to deal with-- sometimes almost as tough as the initial trauma itself.
Trauma, by its very nature, rewires the brain to be on high alert for any signs of danger. This is why those who have struggled with psychological trauma often feel worse when exposed to reminders of their trauma, often known as "triggers".
To overcome trauma, however, one must begin to gradually expose themselves to the things they fear in order to rewire the brain's hair-trigger trauma response.
Survivors of car accidents, for example, may find themselves terrified of driving, or even of being in a car as a passenger.
The simple act of being in a moving vehicle may remind them of the traumatic incident, and cause them great distress.
With guidance, however, they can gradually expose themselves to these triggers, and effectively "teach" their brain that the situation which they fear is, in fact, safe. It is important that this form of exposure therapy is done with the guidance of a professional, however, as too much exposure to a traumatic trigger may only serve to reinforce the traumatic response.
If you've struggled with trauma, recovery may seem hopeless.
It may feel, at times, like fear is your new normal, and that your trauma is now a permanent part of you. These feelings can be overwhelming by themselves, but it's important to remember that they're just that: feelings.
As research has shown, recovery from trauma is not just possible, but also probable. With the right treatment, trauma has an incredible recovery rate.
The first step in recovery from trauma is always the hardest.
Here at Overcomers Counseling, we're dedicated to making that step as painless as possible for you.
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Overcomers' is a mental health care practice serving Colorado with multiple locations in Colorado Springs and Denver! We have a passion for people and being a part of their experience as they overcome challenges. What will you overcome? Book a therapy session with one of our counselors here.