What is Trauma and How to Overcome it
Trauma manifests itself in a number of different ways, with every person dealing and reacting with it differently. When confronted with trauma it can be difficult to know where to start – and often we can be fed the wrong information – due to so many of us requiring a different approach to getting over a traumatic event.
The word trauma can refer to a number of different things, and trauma can occur for a number of different reasons – including but not limited to;
- Physical trauma
- Harassment – physical, mental and sexual
- Abusive relationships
- Physical assault – including muggings, battery and kidnap
- Sexual abuse – including sex trafficking
- Sexual assault
- Bullying – including misconduct, domestic violence and being the victim of an alcoholic parent
- Domestic violence – romantic and parental
- Witnessing violence – particularly during childhood
- Life-threatening conditions
- Medication – often due to incorrect diagnosis
- Natural disasters – such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, house fires etc.
- Long-term exposure to on-going situations such as extreme poverty
- Verbal abuse
- Extreme violence – such as war or terrorist attacks
- Accidents – including car accidents or accidents at work
The reasons for suffering trauma can vary widely, and equally the symptoms after such an event also vary from person to person. As with most mental health conditions, the experience is different for everyone and the condition can manifest itself in a number of different ways – if you have experienced a traumatic event and find yourself experiencing any of the following symptoms it might be time to speak to a professional.
- Nightmares – it is not uncommon for trauma to cause us to relive the event in our dreams whilst we’re sleeping, as your brain tries to process the event, in order to assist the nervous system in recovering from shock. Lack of sleep is often very common after a traumatic experience, and for many people it is the nightmares that causes insomnia.
- Flashbacks – like with nightmares, many people who experience trauma also suffer with flashbacks of the event. Flashbacks are often triggered by events, situations or locations that remind you of what happened – and often cause the emotions experienced during the event to reoccur.
- Anxiety – those who have experienced a traumatic event often face anxiety afterwards, especially with things associated with what happened. For example, those who are in bad car accidents may experience high anxiety or panic when trying to re-enter a car after their recovery.
- Sadness and/or guilt – if your traumatic experience involved other people who were also involved, injured or killed, it is not uncommon to experience guilt in the aftermath, or to replay events to work out what we could have done better to save the other person/people involved. In addition, many people find themselves a lot more tearful after a traumatic event – this could be caused sadness at the actual event, as well as the body’s natural reaction to “coming down” from fight-or-flight mode.
- Feeling numb – whilst many people experience a high number of different emotions after a traumatic event, an overall feeling of “numbness” often indicates you’re not dealing well with the event. As well as having no negative emotions you might have no positive ones either, as though your emotions have shut down completely – this can come from both the body and mind in an effort to protect yourself from emotions that might be overwhelming.
If you feel like you are experiencing trauma after a particularly difficult event, it doesn’t have to mean you will feel this way for the rest of your life – in fact, there are a number of different steps you can take in order to get your life back on track after a traumatic event.
Getting back to normal after a traumatic event can feel impossible, however taking a few minutes for yourself every day to practice meditation or breathing exercises can go a long way in helping you to sleep, overcome flashbacks and get past anxiety that can sometimes be crippling.
Exercise is a natural way to release endorphins, as well as giving you a distraction from the world around you and a physical release for the emotions you might be experiencing. Signing up for your local gym, joining a boxing class or taking up running are all great ways to improve your overall mental health with a number of different studies suggesting just 30 minutes of exercise three times a week can decrease the symptoms of anxiety and depression as well as a number of other mental health disorders.
A traumatic event – particularly if you were in hospital or had to take time off work – can leave you not knowing the time, day of the week and sometimes even the month of the year. Getting back into a routine, even if it means just getting out of bed at the same time every day and eating three meals at the same time, can make a huge difference to your wellbeing and help you to recover from the event.
A distraction can be the greatest tool in overcoming trauma. Picking up a relaxing hobby such as painting, gardening or even dancing – can help to give you a release and more importantly a distraction when you find yourself rethinking the event or experiencing the subsequent emotions.
Therapy can be a great tool in overcoming trauma, particularly forms of therapy such as cognitive behavioural therapy which are designed to help you deal with a particular issue or event. Your therapist can help you to get back on track through a series of private sessions and additional “homework” to practice at home.
My Online Therapy is the UK’s first interactive platform offering professional therapy through the internet. The unique app was expertly designed in order to make therapy for mental health more accessible, affordable and discreet – in the hope that it will provide a more comfortable experience for those seeking psychological assistance with their mental health. A recent study into online therapy for mental health found it as effective as other forms of treatment such as traditional face-to-face therapy or medication, as well as finding that professional therapy apps were a lot more effective than “false” apps that offer unprofessional assistance with mental health.
My Online Therapy is available through any mobile, tablet or computer and can be downloaded from most mobile app stores – meaning you can access therapy from wherever works for you; your office on your lunch break, your sofa whilst the baby is sleeping or your car in a private spot where you can escape the stress of day to day life. All of our psychologists are fully qualified with years of experience and unlike traditional face-to-face therapy, for many people online therapy is a lot more affordable, without the need for long commutes or endless waiting lists as often experienced through the NHS. Learn more about our services – and how we can match you with the therapy and therapist that will work best for you – on our website or through our app.