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  • Writer's pictureJulie Lee

What Can Trauma Give You?

The Long-Term Effects of Trauma
What Can Trauma Give You?

The Long-Term Effects of Trauma: Understanding and Coping Strategies

Trauma can have profound and lasting impacts on an individual's mental and physical health. The repercussions of traumatic experiences often extend far beyond the initial event, influencing various aspects of daily life and overall well-being.

Mental Health Vulnerabilities

Experiencing trauma increases the risk of developing mental health issues. It can be a direct cause of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and individuals might turn to alcohol, drugs, or self-harm as coping mechanisms for managing difficult emotions and memories. The daily challenges posed by trauma can make it difficult to trust others, maintain relationships, care for oneself, hold a job, or find joy in activities that once brought pleasure. Emotional regulation can also become a struggle, with reactions to current situations being influenced by past traumatic events.

Physical Health Consequences

Trauma doesn't just affect the mind; it also takes a toll on the body. Research indicates a higher risk of developing long-term physical health problems, including chronic illnesses, for those who have experienced trauma. It’s crucial to discuss any physical symptoms with a healthcare provider to address these potential issues.

Recognising PTSD Symptoms

While it's normal to feel shocked and distressed after a challenging or traumatic event, most people start to feel better after a few weeks. However, for some, the trauma leads to PTSD, which is characterised by four main groups of symptoms:

  1. Reliving the Event: This can manifest as flashbacks, nightmares, intrusive thoughts, and physical symptoms like pain or nausea.

  2. Avoidance: People may avoid situations, places, or people that remind them of the trauma, often distracting themselves with work or hobbies, or becoming emotionally numb.

  3. Negative Cognitions: Negative thoughts about themselves, other people or the world.

  4. Hyperarousal: This includes being easily startled, feeling constantly on edge (hypervigilance), and experiencing anxiety, irritability, or anger.

These symptoms can significantly impact daily life, making it challenging to maintain personal care, relationships, and employment.

Types of PTSD

PTSD can vary in severity, and specific types include:

  • Complex PTSD: Stemming from repeated trauma such as abuse or violence, with additional symptoms like shame, guilt, emotional regulation difficulties, dissociation, and harmful coping mechanisms.

  • Birth Trauma: Resulting from a traumatic childbirth experience.

  • Delayed-Onset PTSD: Symptoms emerging more than six months after the traumatic event.

Causes and Risk Factors

PTSD can result from various traumatic events, including serious accidents, life-threatening illnesses, physical or sexual assault, distressing job experiences, terrorist incidents, the loss of a loved one, natural disasters, kidnapping, ICU admission, or being sectioned.  However, it’s important to note that it doesn’t have to be something that seems significant, trauma is the way in which we experience an event, rather than the event itself.  Certain factors increase the likelihood of developing PTSD or experiencing more severe symptoms, such as a history of depression or anxiety, lack of support, physical injury, and prolonged trauma exposure.

Understanding PTSD Development

The exact reasons PTSD develops are not fully understood, but several theories exist:

  • Survival Mechanism: Flashbacks and hypervigilance might be evolutionary responses intended to prepare for future threats but end up hindering trauma processing.

  • Hormonal Imbalance: High levels of stress hormones may persist even after the danger has passed, causing feelings of edginess and numbness.

  • Brain Changes: Alterations in brain areas responsible for emotions and memory can prevent proper processing of flashbacks and nightmares, leading to anxiety.

Seeking Support

It's never too late to seek help for trauma, regardless of how long ago it occurred. Various treatments and self-care strategies can aid in recovery.

Talking Therapies

NICE recommends two primary talking therapies for PTSD:

  • Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR): Involves recalling the trauma while performing guided eye movements or other types of bilateral stimulation, to help the brain process the memory and reducing its intensity.  The benefit of EMDR is that you do not have to talk at length about what happened, if fact, in some cases you don’t have to talk about it at all.

  • Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (TF-CBT): This therapy helps process the traumatic event through techniques like discussing the event and learning grounding methods to manage overwhelming feelings.

Self-Care Strategies

While professional help is crucial, self-care plays an important role:

  • Grounding Techniques: Use methods like deep breathing, carrying a comforting object, or describing your current actions in detail to bring yourself back to the present during flashbacks.

  • Relaxation Practices: Engage in activities like meditation, mindfulness, or listening to music.

  • Communication: Talk to someone you trust about your feelings, even if you don’t discuss the trauma itself.

  • Recognise Triggers: Identify what triggers your symptoms to better prepare and manage your reactions.

  • Physical Health: Maintain a healthy diet, stay active, and address sleep issues to support overall well-being.

Trauma's impact is far-reaching, but with the right support and strategies, it’s possible to manage its effects, process past events and lead a fulfilling life.

If you believe that you are suffering the effects of trauma,

find out how to get help here
If you believe that you are suffering the effects of trauma, find out how to get help

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