Physical and psychological trauma, when left untreated, can have devastating effects on a person. Some people who experience can trauma can heal over time with proper self-care. But, for some, the symptoms remain even after a significant amount of time has passed, and may even worsen to the point of interfering with daily life. About one in ten Canadians and approximately 7.5% of Americans suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Emotional and psychological trauma is the result of living through stressful events that can shatter one’s sense of security – they can involve threats to life or safety, but may also simply be a situation that overwhelms the sufferer. The trauma may be caused by a single incident, such as an accident, injury or violent attack; it may also be the result of ongoing stresses such as domestic violence, bullying or childhood neglect. Sudden stressors that can be overlooked such as surgery, the death of a loved one, or even the end of an important relationship can also be traumatic.
Symptoms of PTSD can begin immediately after the trauma, but for some people, symptoms arise much later. Many traumatic memories can be blocked from when the sufferer is not yet able to process them, and PTSD symptoms can therefore appear months or even years after the traumatic event. People under already heavy stress loads, or who lived through childhood trauma are more likely to react strongly to traumatic events in adulthood.
While physicals symptoms of PTSD include insomnia or nightmares, which can lead to extreme fatigue, people have also experienced edginess, feeling easily startled, a racing heartbeat, as well as muscle tension or aches and pains. Some typical emotional and psychological reactions to trauma can include:
- Feeling numb or disconnected
- Confusion and/or difficulty concentrating
- Shock, disbelief and denial
- Guilt, shame, or self-blame
- Withdrawing from others
- Anxiety or fear of everyday life
- Feelings of extreme sadness or hopelessness
- Anger, irritability or mood swings
Trauma and PTSD can feel crippling at times, but there are treatment options available; it’s important to also incorporate regular exercise and self-care. Trauma can disrupt the natural balance of the mind and body, trapping it in a fight or flight state, it can be beneficial to burn off the excess adrenaline with regular exercise, which will in turn release endorphins and contribute to a sense of well-being. Mindful, rhythmic exercise is best: martial arts, weight training, swimming, running, or even dancing. Maintaining relationships and avoid isolation can also be helpful – join a support group, volunteer, or just participate in social activities. It’s not necessary to discuss the trauma, simply to feel accepted by others, or to have a support system.
Therapy can help resolve long-term issues with techniques such as somatic experiencing, cognitive-behavioural therapy, exposure therapy or eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR).
Residential Programs like Valiant Behavioral Health, are safe places to work through traumatic events that have occurred in our lives, to process them and gain resolve.