A trauma reaction is an emotional response to an event that was terrifying, overwhelming, and/or resulted in feelings of helplessness. How each individual defines trauma varies but the following are commonly reported as traumatic events – a natural disaster, sexual assault, domestic violence/abuse, war, or car accident.
What is Trauma?
During a trauma, an individual may experience a fight, flight, or freeze reaction. Following a trauma, there are a multitude of normal reactions. Examples of these include experiencing feelings of denial, shock, or feeling numb. An individual may also feel anxious, distressed, fearful, agitated, angry, or irritable. They may feel like their emotions are a roller-coaster and have difficulty regulating their emotions. They may feel hopeless about the future and have difficulty experiencing positive emotions such as joy or love.
Following a trauma, an individual may distrust others or even themselves. They may become withdrawn and isolate from friends and loved ones. Furthermore, a traumatic experience can lead to physical symptoms such as nausea and headaches, a pounding heart or rapid breathing, and feeling easily fatigued. Some people can feel detached or like they are floating and it is important to know that this is the body’s way of protecting itself by distancing from emotions, sensations, and memories.
Additional reactions to trauma include feeling as if you are “going crazy”, experiencing flashbacks, a loss of a sense of safety, a loss of a sense of power and control over oneself or their future, decreased self-esteem, and difficulty with intimacy. These symptoms may impact an individual's occupation, school work, and relationships.
It's important to note, these symptoms develop as a way to protect the body and self, because an individual’s system is perpetually in a state of fight-or-flight. It does this to constantly scan for threats, but in reality, it makes functioning very difficult.
This is a confusing time because a person who has experienced trauma may question themselves, others, and the world around them. Their belief system has been shaken to its very core and now they have to try and make sense of this life altering event while attempting to organize it into their narrative. While sifting through trauma, it is normal to want to avoid situations, people, or details that contain reminders of the event. Unfortunately, this often results in building a life around avoidance and fear, as one’s body and mind become conditioned to be in a state of distress.
There are many reactions to trauma. While some may develop Posttraumatic Stress Disorder symptoms, some may develop depression (or prior depression symptoms may worsen). They may also develop a host of other disorders including Anxiety Disorders, Eating Disorders, or Substance Use Disorders. At OakHeart, we can help assess your symptoms and make a recommendation for a treatment that best fits your needs. To make an appointment, please call 630-570-0050.