Traumatic events can come in many forms and how they affect us also varies.
“Trauma touches our lives in many different ways; a serious accident, a physical assault, war, a natural disaster, sexual assault or abuse. It might affect you or those you love. These events can be traumatic as they cause a threat to your safety and/or the safety of others.” – Beyond Blue.
As individuals we all react differently to certain situations in our lives, and in turn we all have to cope with different symptoms and feelings associated with trauma. We wanted to discuss some of the key signs to be aware of before they can affect you on a deeper level. It is important to know that immediately after a trauma many of these reactions are the normal reaction, if they continue in the months after the trauma, or we feel stuck with them then it is time to reconsider the effect of the trauma.
What are the key signs and symptoms trauma?
We sometimes assume that trauma can only affect us mentally, but there are many ways the effects can physically manifest themselves:
- Constant tiredness even after you have had a rest
- Headaches and general pain in your body
- Difficulty falling asleep
- Having restless sleep
- Strange physical sensations
- Finding yourself being hypersensitive to emotional content (movie, song, book etc.)
- Feeling disconnected from your emotions and/or your body
- Feeling helpless or hopeless about the future
- Being constantly angry or irritated at people and their actions
- Finding yourself being constantly cynical or jumping to conclusions
- Intrusive thoughts and imagery related to the traumatic material you have seen or heard
- Avoiding going to work or planned events
- Having no interest in activities which used to give you joy like sports or other hobbies
- Changes to your personal relationships, like people avoiding you or you are avoiding others
- No separation of personal and professional time – keeping busy all the time to avoid reminders of the trauma
- Difficulty relating to others’ day-to-day experiences
- Small talk becoming meaningless and difficult to relate to
- Thinking no one understands
- Being overly cautious about the health and well-being of others
- Isolating yourself completely from others or only interacting with people who are in your same field or can relate to your experiences
If you have any concerns about any of these signs and feel like they may relate to you, it might be time to seek help or strategies to support you managing your journey.
What should I do if I feel I’ve been affected by trauma?
Look after yourself
It’s vitally important to make sure you physically and mentally look after yourself.
It’s important to remind yourself that you are safe and that the way you are feeling will not last forever.
Physically, try to exercise and eat well, as this will often give you a good foundation to work from and it’s important to avoid alcohol and drugs as an escape.
The International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies has provided research that demonstrates a strong link between exposure to traumatic events and substance use problems, so it is something to be very mindful of.
Find support from loved ones
Find someone who you trust and feel supported by and explain how you are feeling. Sometimes this might not be family.
Seek the help of a professional
If you find yourself experiencing constant behavioural and physical symptoms of trauma and feel like it is starting to affect your daily life, this is the point where you should seek the support of a professional.
At the Centre of Clinical Psychology, we have years of experience and training to help navigate and manage the effects of trauma.
We use a number of different techniques to help you cope and develop strategies to manage any uncomfortable symptoms. We focus on the use of evidence based and trauma focused therapies, which are shown to change the effects of trauma.