What is Trauma?
Trauma is a widespread and impactful experience that affects more individuals than one might assume. Research suggests that up to 75% of Americans have encountered some form of trauma in their lifetimes. This exposure to traumatic events has been linked to numerous mental disorders, including depression, substance abuse, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Additionally, trauma has been associated with physical health problems such as heart, chronic lung, and liver diseases. It can also contribute to negative health behaviors like smoking and overeating, as well as impaired social and occupational functioning, ultimately leading to a decreased overall quality of life.
When we undergo a traumatic experience, it is not just a mental struggle but also a physical one. Our bodies carry the weight of trauma, manifesting in overwhelming sensations. While our minds may attempt to move on logically, the impact on our bodies remains.
This internal struggle between mind and body is a constant reminder of the trauma’s enduring effects. It is important to note that even if individuals who have experienced trauma manage to accomplish a great deal, it does not mean they are not profoundly affected by the traumatic event.
Prior experiences of helplessness can compound the effects of trauma. If someone has previously felt powerless in their early life and then encounters another traumatic experience later on, those past feelings of helplessness can resurface, intensifying the impact. In this way, the effects of trauma can be cumulative, making the healing process complex and non-linear.
In understanding the effects of trauma on our lives, it is evident that nothing is ever simple or straightforward. The physical, emotional, and psychological toll of trauma can have far-reaching consequences. It is crucial to recognize the depth of these impacts and provide the necessary support and understanding for individuals who have experienced trauma.
Trauma is an emotional response to a terrible event like an accident, rape, or other violent acts, as well as a natural disaster. Initial typical reactions to these events include shock and denial. Longer-term reactions include unpredictable emotions, flashbacks, strained relationships, and even physical symptoms.
Traumatic exposure has been implicated as a risk factor for numerous mental disorders, including depression, substance abuse, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Trauma is also associated with such physical health problems as heart, chronic lung, and liver diseases. Negative health behaviors, such as smoking and overeating, poor social and occupational functioning, and overall decreased quality of life, are also common. It is the experience of being overwhelmed by the situation.
The reason is that we carry trauma in heartbreaking sensations that we feel in our bodies. When we experience a traumatic experience, our body feels crushed by the trauma, but the mind tries to be logical and move on. Thus, it becomes an internal struggle between mind and body.
How do people deal with trauma?
People are survivors and will do whatever is necessary to move forward with their lives. Individuals may attempt to cope with the painful emotions associated with trauma by seeking ways to feel numb. This can lead to engaging in excessive use of substances, gaming, watching television, or other addictive behaviors as a means of escape.
However, these coping mechanisms often exacerbate the symptoms and problems related to trauma, leading to increased feelings of isolation and disconnection. It is important to seek healthier coping strategies such as therapy, support groups, self-care practices, and building a strong support network to address and manage the painful emotions associated with trauma effectively.
Some people dealing with trauma will:
Self-medicate themselves with alcohol and drugs
Cut and self-mutilate their bodies
among other things
Will be able to accomplish great things and make tremendous external advances by making great efforts to push aside what happened to them. But they may still be dealing in secret with the toll of the trauma quietly, fearing that if the people around them find out, they will be rejected and lose connection to those people.
Just because a person who has experienced trauma can accomplish a lot doesn’t mean that they are not profoundly dealing with the effects of the traumatic event. We come into these situations with our prior background.
Early traumatic experiences are a factor.
If we have had prior experiences of being helpless early in our life and then, later on in our life, we again experience another traumatic experience, that old orientation gets revived. In other words, the effect can be cumulative. Therefore, when it comes to the effects trauma can have on us, nothing is ever simple and straightforward.
How can one heal from childhood trauma?
Healing from childhood trauma is a complex journey, but it is essential to understand that it is not impossible to overcome its effects. As your psychologist, I am dedicated to helping my patients take the necessary steps toward healing.
One of the critical aspects of my trauma-focused therapy is addressing the specific needs of individuals who have experienced post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or other difficulties related to traumatic life events. My therapeutic approach involves building essential skills to confront past trauma gaining insight and understanding of those experiences, all while working on coping with everyday challenges. We will focus on implementing practical solutions to aid you in emotional regulation, establishing trust, and setting boundaries to create emotional and physical safety.
It is important to recognize that trauma affects not only our minds but also our bodies. Often, our bodies retain memories of the trauma. You might experience your heart rate accelerating when passing by a location that triggers memories or feel tingling or heaviness in different parts of your body. Additionally, you may suffer from panic attacks when confronted with reminders of the traumatic event. To address these bodily sensations, I will incorporate approaches like somatic therapy. This method helps identify and connect these sensations to the trauma, ultimately reinstating a healthy and comfortable mind-body connection.
My goal is to assist you in discovering the root causes of your distress, which empowers you to make necessary changes in your life. I will strive to create a sense of security and trust through my supportive and confidential environment. It is important to note that therapy does not solely revolve around discussing every detail of the traumatic event. Instead, therapy aids in the development of healthy coping skills, identification of triggers, reduction of traumatic stress symptoms, alleviation of fear, and the creation of a new narrative. You will be provided the support, guidance, and expertise necessary to embark on a journey towards healing and clarity. This, in turn, builds self-confidence and self-compassion.
Therefore, healing from childhood trauma is a process that requires commitment and guidance. I will provide the necessary tools, support, and therapeutic approaches to aid you in your healing journey. I believe in your ability to overcome the effects of childhood trauma, and we are here to support you every step of the way.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
For most people, a person who has post-traumatic stress disorder (or PTSD) is only akin to males who have fought in combat. However, actual medical research has demonstrated that anyone who has dealt with some terrible traumatic event and wrestling with the aftermath of that event might have PTSD. Individuals can develop PTSD after exposure to a potentially traumatic event that is beyond a typical stressor.
Some of the events that may lead to an individual suffering from PTSD may include:
Violent personal assaults
Combat and other forms of violence
According to PTSD United, Inc., a nonprofit, 70% of American adults have experienced a significant traumatic event at least once in their lifetime, and 20% of those victims developed some level of PTSD. Similarly, according to the Institute of Mental Health, an estimated 3.6% of U.S. adults had PTSD in the past year.
Interestingly, studies have shown women are twice as likely to experience PTSD when compared to men. Traumatic experiences such as child abuse, sexual assault, rape, and physical attack or simply witnessing violence and bloodshed can cause a person to have symptoms of PTSD. All this means that anyone suffering from PTSD is not alone.
Victims may have:
difficulty expressing what they feel
avoid those things that remind them of the trauma
they are hypervigilant
anger and irritable
trouble focusing and being productive at work
The good news is that there are a host of viable and effective ways to help individuals with PTSD
There is no such thing as a small trauma.
As stated above, a person’s reaction to trauma is personal and individualized. No two people will experience a traumatic situation the same way.
What is important to remember is that we are all social creatures that need to be validated.
What is grief and loss, and how does it relate to trauma?
Grief and loss are natural processes everyone goes through after experiencing the departure of someone or something significant in their life. While many people associate grief with extreme and life-altering losses, it’s important to understand that various circumstances, including trauma, can trigger it.
Grief can be described as a complex emotional, psychological, and physical response to loss. It encompasses a range of emotions, such as sadness, anger, guilt, confusion, and even relief. The grieving process is unique to each individual, as factors like personality, culture, and previous experiences shape one’s response to loss.
When it comes to trauma, grief and loss can become intricately intertwined. Trauma refers to distressing or disturbing experiences that overwhelm an individual’s ability to cope. These experiences can include accidents, abuse, violence, or the sudden death of a loved one. Traumatic events can shatter an individual’s sense of safety, trust, and well-being, leading to significant emotional trauma.
In such cases, grief may manifest differently than in other types of loss. Traumatic grief often involves a complicated mixture of emotions as individuals grapple with not only the loss itself but also the impact of the traumatic event. This can include feelings of survivor guilt, intrusive memories, anxiety, and even symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Furthermore, grief can also be experienced in response to non-death-related losses caused by trauma. For example, someone who has experienced a debilitating injury or the loss of a cherished possession due to a traumatic event may go through a grieving process.
It’s important to recognize that grief and loss following trauma are not linear processes. They can be ongoing, with individuals experiencing waves of emotions and adjusting to the loss over time. Thus, It’s not uncommon for individuals to come to my office to navigate through the complex emotions associated with traumatic grief and loss.
Trauma can intensify emotions and complicate the grieving process, leading to a unique set of challenges for individuals to overcome. Understanding the intricate relationship between grief, loss, and trauma can help in providing support and empathy to those experiencing these complex emotions.
The offices of Ginny Estupinian Ph.D. can help.
When you work with my office, your story and your experience will be validated and never judged. You will be treated with the dignity and respect you deserve. Together, we will help you integrate the traumatic experience, providing you with a better sense of understanding and control over the experience.
Over the last decade, I have worked with various individuals who have been victims of severe trauma. There is not a situation that I have not encountered. Working with clients from the Center for Survivors of Torture to the Veterans Administration, I have worked with a host of complex post-traumatic syndrome disorders and associated issues.
I have also helped clients who have been victims of highly publicized crimes, shootings, natural disasters, and other severe tragedies. Often, these clients had to deal with the impact of the original trauma and withstand the ongoing ordeal of court proceedings and media inquiries that followed.
Working together, each of these clients was able to navigate through all the proceedings successfully and rebuild their lives.
Each traumatic situation and the effects it has on a person are unique to that person. My goal is always to work with the client to integrate back into their life and give them the peace they seek.