Understanding Trauma:
Effects, Symptoms, and Coping Strategies

Trauma is a term used to describe a wide range of experiences that threaten a person’s physical or emotional well-being. It can result from various events, including car accidents, natural disasters, war, and sexual assault. Traumatic experiences can lead to long-lasting psychological effects, including stress and anxiety disorders. Let’s explore the symptoms of trauma, how it affects individuals, and coping strategies.

Trauma Statistics

Around 50% of individuals will experience at least one traumatic event in their lifetime. While most people will recover from trauma over time, approximately 8% will develop posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Trauma reactions may last for several weeks or months before people start to feel normal again.

Symptoms of Trauma

Traumatic experiences can lead to a range of intense and unusual stress reactions in our emotions, thoughts, and actions. The most common symptoms of trauma fall into three broad areas: re-experiencing, avoidance, and hyperarousal. Other emotions such as guilt, anger, and depression can also commonly occur following a traumatic experience.

Re-experiencing Symptoms

Repetitive, vivid, and intrusive thoughts, images, memories, and sensations about the trauma and its consequences are hallmark symptoms of re-experiencing. Traumatic images or thoughts may intrude during the day as “flashbacks” or during sleep as nightmares. Other typical thoughts may include:

  • Believing you are in danger.
  • Believing that you should foresee and control these dangers.
  • Believing that you should have somehow been able to do more to stop the event from happening.
  • Believing that your personality and future are permanently damaged.
  • Avoidance Symptoms

Avoidance refers to not wanting to be around reminders of the trauma. This may include avoiding some of the people, places, and things that remind you of the event or were present at the time. Emotional numbing and a diminished ability to experience pleasure are typical. Some people may forget important aspects of the trauma, report being unable to have loving feelings toward others, and may have less interest in carrying on with their daily lives. People may withdraw socially, begin to feel alienated and mistrustful of others, and report an increase in conflicts with others. Avoidance can also take the form of strange, almost dream-like, experiences called depersonalization and derealization. You might feel unreal or disconnected from your surroundings, nearby people, or your own body. Alcohol and/or other substances are other methods often used to avoid traumatic feelings and memories through “self-medicating.”

Hyperarousal Symptoms

Hyperarousal symptoms are common physical symptoms of anxiety that may occur following a trauma, including difficulty falling or staying asleep, irritability or outbursts of anger, difficulty concentrating, being hypervigilant, a general inability to unwind, and becoming easily startled. Panic attacks, racing heart, and appetite disturbances are also common.

Coping Strategies

Coping with trauma can be a challenging and ongoing process. However, it’s important to seek support and care from family, friends, and medical professionals. Seeking treatment for trauma can help individuals learn healthy coping mechanisms and techniques to manage symptoms.

Treatment options for trauma include therapy, medication, and self-help techniques. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) has been found to be effective in treating trauma-related disorders such as PTSD. Medications, such as antidepressants, can also be used to manage symptoms. Self-help techniques, including exercise, meditation, and breathing exercises, can also help individuals cope with trauma.

Women and Trauma

Women are at higher risk of experiencing certain types of trauma, such as sexual assault and domestic violence. While both men and women may experience PTSD, women may be more likely to experience certain symptoms such as flashbacks and avoidance. Despite this, women may be less likely to seek help for their symptoms.

Getting Help

If you or someone you know has experienced trauma, it’s important to seek help from a mental health professional. Treatment can help alleviate symptoms and improve overall well-being. Some common types of treatment for trauma include:

  • Cognitive Processing Therapy
  • Trauma-Focused CBT
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy

Trauma is a complex and often life-changing experience. While everyone responds differently to trauma, it’s important to seek help if you or someone you know is struggling with the effects of a traumatic event. With the right treatment and support, it’s possible to heal and move forward from trauma.

It May Be Time For

Psychological Support

This is an office that specializes in the treatment of women. There are times in life when a woman can feel off balance and can’t seem to snap out of it. When our own natural support system just isn’t enough, it may be time to reach out to a professional counselor to start the process of therapy.

Our new office in Portland provides effective and reliable Teletherapy services for women. It has proven to be a very viable way to meet with clients.  During our sessions, we meet face-to-face, utilize the whiteboard and share important visual materials with you.  We recognize the importance of a good therapeutic relationship and strive to build a positive rapport, treating each client with respect and dignity.  This office now accepts Medicaid clients.