Trauma can be many things…scary, painful, long lasting. But the one thing it’s not is one size fits all. An event that is traumatic for one person may not be for the next, and that’s what makes it potentially confusing to understand; trauma and how it manifests within someone is unique to that person’s individual experience. Here are some questions I’m often asked about trauma:
How do I know if I have experienced trauma? It is identified by the symptoms rather than the event itself. A few examples of symptoms can include, but are not limited to, pervasive feelings of anxiety and hyper-vigilance, difficulty sleeping and/or nightmares, looping thoughts of the event itself, and avoiding certain activities. If you find that you had been largely adaptive throughout your life but after an event these symptoms appear and cause considerable distress, then this could indicate a single episode trauma.
What if I have multiple experiences? When one experiences multiple events of trauma throughout childhood or adulthood over an extended period of time it can be more difficult to identify since it may feel ‘normal’ to you because of the duration. This is known as “Complex Trauma”. Symptoms include difficulty with getting close to people in relationships, pervasive feelings of shame, ongoing physical gastrointestinal symptoms or headaches, and feeling shut down/numb or highly emotional. These are just a few examples of many symptoms one can experience that cause a pervasive disturbance in one’s quality of life.
Is this treatable and what do I do about it? The answer is yes, this is very treatable for both a single episode and complex trauma. A trauma-informed therapist can help you to assess your symptoms, identify a treatment approach and then reduce or eliminate the symptoms. In addition, an experienced CBT therapist can help you to gain skills to cope in a less distressing manner. There is a path for you to feel better. There is help. There is hope.
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Contact us at The Ross Center to schedule an appointment with a trauma-informed therapist to begin your recovery.
Written by Tanya Clausen, LCSW