Updated: Oct 2
Trauma is something that may happen so quickly and suddenly that we do not even realize what has happened. While many people are able to recover from overwhelming, upsetting or frightening experiences by talking with friends, having a hot bubble bath, going for a walk with the dog, or through meditation, sometimes trauma hangs on and shows up later. When trauma does stick, and we do not realize it is sticking to us until some small thing happens and we overreact. Or, we know we have been traumatized, but no one else seems to understand - or they are tired of hearing about it and tell us to get over it. And sometimes we believe we have 'dealt with it', and then it comes back to throw our life off track months, years or even decades later. Trauma can be like that box of stuff that we hide somewhere, always meaning to get rid of it, but never quite getting to it, and then something or someone touches the box and now there is a mess everywhere. Trauma therapy helps to get the box moved into the sunlight, and cleaned out.
Some traumatized children are resilient and recover quickly with support. Others may display symptoms immediately, or symptoms that worsen over time. Others, may seem to recover, but trauma can leave 'hooks' in their psyche that appear years later. While some victims of childhood trauma may abuse drugs and alcohol at teens as a way to cope, others do 'just fine' until their own children reach the age they were traumatized. Childhood trauma may lead to repeated failed adult relationships, workplace difficulties, depression, anxiety, isolation, gambling, over-eating, physical health issues, addictions, etc...
Some Types of Childhood Trauma
sexual / physical / emotional abuse
accidents or significant injury (e.g. car accident/house fire)
exposure to war
medical trauma (e.g. surgery, serious or chronic illness)
parental substance abuse
untreated/poorly managed parental mental health issues
parental conflict / domestic violence
death or loss of a parent(s), sibling, or a family member
abuse due to race, orientation, religion
While some individuals are exposed to trauma on a daily basis (e.g. firefighters, police, paramedics/EMT, Canadian Forces (CF) military active duty, nurses, doctors...) most adults experience trauma primarily due to accident or injury. For others, the threat of trauma due to troubled domestic relationships, addictions issues, or toxic work environments (e.g. harassment, bullying, work overload, etc.) are an ongoing concern. Whether the trauma is singular and abrupt such as a car accident, or ongoing, it may severely disrupt your life.
Some symptoms of adult trauma:
anxiety / chronic worry
increased interpersonal conflict
trouble focusing / difficulty with task completion
avoiding family or friends
risk taking behaviours
increased substance use or substance abuse
losing interest in previously enjoyable activities
changes in eating habits
overreacting to minor threats or difficulties
difficulty falling or staying asleep
low mood / depression
memory / learning difficulties
avoidance of trauma reminders
feeling unsafe even when it is safe
over-protectiveness of self, children, or others
stuck thinking / looping thoughts
feeling 'frozen' or 'helpless'
increased substance use or substance abuse
addictive behaviours (e.g. gambling, over eating, over shopping, sex without intimacy, to much time lost on social media/internet)
Trauma symptoms that occur in the month following the trauma exposure may be signs of Acute Stress Disorder. Trauma symptoms that continue or appear more than one month after the trauma exposure may be signs of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
If you have been exposed to a traumatizing experience, and you are experiencing some or many of the symptoms listed above, or your friends/family/employer or others are concerned about you, then you may want to consider speaking to a trauma therapist. Research shows that specific types of trauma therapy are the most likely to be effective trauma treatment. These therapies include Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Prolonged-Exposure Therapy (PE) and medication.
If you have any questions, please feel free to email Sally-Anne here. We look forward to hearing from you.