What is trauma? And, what does it look like? Trauma can be one of the most difficult psychological events to overcome for an individual. It could happen when someone experiences any specific event that was profoundly distressful and upsetting. Unlike popular belief, trauma does not automatically lead a person to develop post-traumatic stress disorders and the symptoms that go along with it. However, if the signs of trauma are left untreated, our therapists have found that the development of post-traumatic stress disorder is more likely.
When a client experiences trauma, they are unlikely to express this experience with anyone else. Therefore, a proper diagnosis should be left to a professional to verify. But, how can we help if we are unsure of our trauma symptoms, or we know of someone that may have experienced trauma? Signs of trauma are subtle but can be easily detected if you know what to look for. Our trauma therapists affirm that these symptoms can be broken down into behavioral, physical, and emotional signs. Here are some essential items to watch for:
1. Nightmares and Changes in Sleep Patterns
Sleep disturbances that are consistent are significant symptoms to watch for in someone that may have potentially experienced trauma. Regular sleeping patterns can be disrupted with frequent insomnia or nightmares when trauma has been encountered. These sleep challenges can be prevalent and may include difficulties with falling asleep and staying asleep. Our therapist can confirm that when these sleep disturbances become a regular part of someone’s sleep routines, the individual may become more fatigued during the day which can lead to other physical and emotional symptoms.
2. Intrusive Memories
Many of our clients who have experienced trauma have reported that the most challenging part of the trauma is how quickly they can relive the trauma. Any sights, sounds, smells, or memories can cause distressing and intrusive thoughts that reminds one of the traumatic events. Despite any attempts to stop these thoughts, without the professional help of a therapist, the memories can repeat on its own in their minds. This can make it difficult to concentrate on regular day-to-day responsibilities.
3. Physical Symptoms
There are a host of physical symptoms that come with having experienced a traumatic event. Most of these symptoms can cause physical pain, while others can inhibit a person’s everyday functioning. According to Houston’s therapists, the following symptoms are, and not limited to, some common physical signs of trauma: muscle tension, aches, dizziness, heart palpitations and chest pains, numbness, chills and tremors, and uncontrollable sweating.
4. Significant Changes in Appetite and Digestive Problems
Another sign of trauma, according to our expert therapists, changes in appetite and stomach problems. Changes in appetite can vary depending on the trauma experienced; an individual can increase their appetite to abnormal proportions, or completely lose their appetite for food. Trauma can also elicit symptoms related to an upset stomach. In the extremes, the client can experience nausea and diarrhea.
Read: Big T vs Little T Trauma
5. Extremely Negative Emotions
Extreme emotional instability is also a sure-tell sign of trauma where the person may express anger or rage, irritability, and other outbursts that are uncharacteristic of their typical behaviors. Therapists often observe emotional mood swings that are difficult to control for the individual. Their sense of fear, guilt, and shame are out of proportions, which can lead to depressed moods, a sense of hopelessness, and a general loss of interest in anything. Self-blame for having experienced the trauma in the first place is prevalent, causing the person to dive deeper into their negative emotions overall.
As per the above, trauma can cause a person to self-blame and feel shame over what happened to them. As such, therapists have the difficult task of helping our clients realize that isolation is the opposite of adequate progress. The overwhelming sadness and hopelessness, as well as feeling disconnected and numb towards others make it very easy to withdraw from others. Especially when the urge to detach from others out of anxieties and fear becomes overwhelming.
7. Behavior Changes
Significant changes in behavior, such as being aggressive or easily irritated is also widespread amongst trauma victims. Therapists understand that the edginess and agitation is a part of a defense mechanism to avoid having to address the real emotions and turmoil for the traumatic experience. A gentle and friendly person can seemingly turn into a hostile person overnight as a result of having experienced trauma.
8. Heightened Sensitivity
Clients that have gone through trauma have also reported to their therapists that they have a heightened sensitivity to everything around them. This hypervigilance is described as intense feelings of fear, almost like a panic attack for impending doom. The anxieties felt becomes chronic, and it is tough to relax and think that it’s safe to be anywhere that reminds them of where the trauma took place. It becomes difficult to concentrate and focus, because there is always a fear that danger is lurking just around the corner, causing the person to be startled very easily.
What’s the next step?
If any or all of the above symptoms of trauma sounds familiar in your current lifestyle, or of someone you know, the most important thing is to understand that seeking support is the most crucial decision to make. Isolation, as we previously described, will only deepen the symptoms of trauma and the anxieties that accompany trauma. If you are having difficulties in any of the above areas, or a loved one is displaying any of the above symptoms, you can contact us at the Grief Recovery Center in Houston, TX for more info today.