People suffering from trauma often don’t recognize it. The human mind is adept at protecting itself and in many cases opts to block traumatic moments from memory. This is a subconscious mechanism that stops us from reliving traumatic events over and over in our imagination.
Reliving events helps us to process our traumas and understand what happened to us. Reaching this point often takes a substantial amount of time, as it takes a while for the pain to lessen to the point that healing can begin. Before this moment comes, trauma doesn’t simply cease to exist simply because we aren’t actively analyzing it.
Whether we pay attention to trauma or not, it manifests itself in a variety of ways, both physically and mentally. If you’re looking to divest yourself of the symptoms of trauma, addressing the cause is key. Read on to find out more!
What Is Trauma?
First and foremost it’s worth narrowing down what trauma is exactly. Trauma describes the damage done by any situation or moment that has impacted you negatively. If you’ve been hurt in such a way that the damage impacts your day-to-day life, this can be described as trauma.
In other words, trauma is sustained lasting damage which you’re left to contend with long after the troubling moment itself has passed. As human beings, we’re sensitive creatures and there’s no telling which occurrences throughout our lives will leave a lasting impression. It’s completely normal to struggle with various traumas and you shouldn’t stigmatize your plight.
It’s often painful to dwell on the causes of trauma, for obvious reasons. However, the best course of action is to face them without turning away. Light must be shone on trauma for it to shrink and lose its power over us, otherwise, it dwells within us for a lifetime.
Addressing Your Trauma
Deciding to turn and face trauma head-on is a choice that hinges on the courage of the individual. Depending on the personality of the sufferer, this can either take a single deep reluctant breath or many years of gentle coaxing through professional counseling. The result is the same, an uncomfortable and unshielded contemplation of the metaphorical thorn in the sufferer’s mind.
While it’s true we’re all sensitive beings, we’re also capable of great strength and perseverance. Facing what is essentially an episode in our lives that has begun to slowly poison us is no easy feat. Understand that when left unattended in a dark corner of our mind, it’s only going to get worse and begin to propagate.
We only get one shot at life, so it makes perfect sense to go on the attack as soon as possible. Wasting our short time on this planet and avoiding addressing a constant problem is no way to behave. It’s our duty to ourselves as autonomous beings to shore up our defenses so we can make the most of our time here.
The realization that we are the captains of the secret machinations within our minds is greatly empowering. Running from the thorn serves only to weaken us and blight the interactions of a life that could otherwise be peaceful and joyous. Having said that, be gentle with yourself, as this is a process taken one step at a time!
Reacting to Trauma Symptoms
Trauma is a tricky thing to diagnose by observing symptoms alone. We deal with our traumas in squirrely ways to distance ourselves and disconnect from them as much as possible. As such, someone’s trauma may not have any logical connection in terms of understanding the symptoms caused by it.
Psychological distress can be thought of in terms of a building of pressure. While we ignore the direct cause of the trauma, be it consciously or unconsciously, the pressure will build. This pressure can vent in unpredictable ways.
If someone acts in a way that seems inexplicable to you, trauma could well be the cause. It’s worth remembering that while many people seem whole on the outside, there’s no telling what traumas they’re hiding within. Each person has a history every bit as rich and storied as ourselves and is just as deserving of kindness as we are.
Before making a snap judgment and fooling yourself into believing you understand the cause of a symptom, pause to reflect. Would the intricacies of your trauma be so transparent to others in their place?
Common Symptoms of Underlying Trauma
Symptoms of trauma manifest outwardly in many ways. While it’s not possible to pinpoint exactly the source of the trauma from common symptoms, it’s safe to assume it exists in most cases where common symptoms are present. The pressure of unaddressed trauma often exhibits itself as depression or anxiety.
Sometimes people seem depressed or anxious for no particular reason. If you were to ask them why they’re depressed or anxious, or both, they might not be able to answer you. This is because they haven’t spent the necessary introspective time to identify the cause themselves.
Many people exhibit what seems a general malaise of spirit without ever asking themselves if being constantly depressed is normal. Now more than ever people are accepting their lot in life as simply grim, without hope of it ever being anything different. Not every trauma is borne from a single passionately traumatic event, and so are overlooked or discredited.
Some traumas are less obviously impactful. Psychological discontent with life causes damage over time just as severe as other sources might, and is every bit as debilitating.
Physical Signs of Depression
Depression manifests itself in many ways and isn’t limited to walking around with a frown. If things were so simple, we would hardly need people to devote their lives to the understanding of human psychology! Depression is often subtle and requires a keen eye to spot.
What little outward suggestion there is of someone’s depression can exhibit itself in several ways. The caricature of the depressed person is often seen as someone with their shoulders slumped, their head low, and a black cloud above their head. In reality, someone suffering from even the most acute depression can appear to have a sunny and magnetic disposition.
For this reason, it’s important to treat everyone with common decency, even people who seem immune to life’s ups and downs. The only way to tell if someone is depressed is to get them alone and ask them privately if they’re okay. Even then, depressive people are often not the type to share their problems.
Physical symptoms of trauma don’t show themselves as they’re classically assumed to. Emotions aren’t as cut and dry as the media portrays them. The only real way to address depression is to fight toward the root of the cause and shine as much light upon it as is bearable.
Symptoms of Trauma and Anxiety
Humanity as we know it has never been as divorced from our natural environment and each other as we are today. Suffering from symptoms of anxiety now and then has become an accepted part of life, but it shouldn’t be debilitating. Additional stress lumped onto the pile of things to worry about from unaddressed trauma has predictable effects.
Chronic anxiety gets in the way of everything, at every turn. Even moments that should be a blessing can become barriers that seem unscalable. Trauma-induced anxiety focuses self-critical thought that disrupts even the most basic interaction.
At its core, anxiety is a form of unbridled self-consciousness. In a bid to control whatever we can in the uncertainty of life, attempts to ensure people see us as we see ourselves become unmanageable. Trauma can set this off for several reasons, the chief of which is feeling fear at the prospect of a loss of control.
Of course, uncertainty is the only certainty in life, so no matter how many scenarios we imagine, the feeling of security never comes. We cannot predict the future, so anxiety persists. Somewhat ironically, acceptance that control is forever out of reach is the only tonic for anxiety.
There is some relief to be had in the realization that things will happen as they may, and are ultimately out of our control.
Dealing with trauma alone is possible, but inadvisable. Sharing our troubles with a group or a professional is enormously beneficial. Sometimes all it takes is voicing our story and hearing it from our own lips to shine light into corners we didn’t know existed.
To be heard and understood by others is also a great panacea. Sharing how we feel and our experiences with other people can lend them important legitimacy that assists in putting them to bed for good. Too often people think of their traumas as inconsequential and not worth bothering others with.
The truth is we’re all in the same boat, and sharing experiences with others not only helps the sufferer but everyone involved in the discussion. We’re not here to live a life on an island without any connection. Feeling heard and understood is a soothing experience, learning we’re not alone and others often feel the same way is an invaluable balm.
Hearing the plight of others helps us triangulate our position in the world. A solitary existence without a helping hand now and again is more or less doomed to fail. If you’re considering asking for help, it’s time to find mental health resources.
Addressing Personal Trauma
The first step is always the hardest in making a positive change. You might have been ignoring your traumas for years, in which case they’ll be especially hard to face. The very thought of admitting you’re struggling may be almost too much to seriously consider.
The truth is that despite how uncomfortable it might be, the alternative is much worse. The best option would have been to begin your journey to healing soon after it happened. The second best time is now.
Living half a life while shouldering the weight of unspoken and unresolved traumas only perpetuates misery. Instead of taking the plunge and attacking the source head-on, you’re feeling the long and drawn-out effects of your reluctance to begin. In the end, the only route to becoming whole and enjoying life again is to face your dragons directly.
You are the only person capable of deciding to change your life for the better. The prospect of having your own life in your hands may be daunting, but it’s better in yours than in the hands of another. Where there’s a will, there’s a way!
If it feels as if all hope is lost, and the weight is becoming too much to bear, reach out to someone. You might be surprised at how supportive people can be, especially as most people, despite keeping it to themselves, often feel much the same.
Getting Help and Treating Trauma
Treating the symptoms of trauma is not the answer. Instead, directly treat the trauma itself. This can be done with the help of professionals who have spent years dealing with issues just like yours.
People face their demons every day and are thankful for having done so. If you’re considering asking for help for yourself or for someone you know, don’t hesitate. It may seem scary, but you needn’t be alone!
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