How Do I Handle Trauma?
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Experiencing trauma at any stage in life often comes with stress, fear, and anxiety. These are entirely normal reactions from the body as a response to trauma. However, many people ignore the symptoms caused by traumatic events. When trauma is ignored or left untreated, it can wreak havoc on an individual’s mental health. In fact, a few serious mental health disorders are associated with untreated trauma.
What Disorders Can Trauma Cause?
Stress and fear are just some of the side effects that can result from trauma. However, more serious mental health concerns can often come when people ignore trauma. Below are just some of the most common disorders associated with trauma.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
PTSD is considered one of the most severe of the many recognized anxiety disorders. Some possible traumatic experiences that have been associated with PTSD include the following:
- Near-death experiences such as car accidents or physical assault
- Sexual assault
- Exposure to a medical-related traumatic experience or prolonged exposure to traumatic environments
- Traumatic childbirth or other medical-related circumstances
- Surviving a natural disaster
A multitude of symptoms can accompany PTSD. These include:
- Re-experiencing symptoms such as flashbacks (reliving the trauma over and over), bad dreams, and terrifying thoughts
- Avoidance symptoms including staying away from places, events, or things that are reminders of the traumatic experience, and avoiding thoughts/feelings related to the traumatic event
- Arousal/reactivity symptoms like being easily startled, tense feelings like being “on edge”, difficulty sleeping, and angry outbursts
- Cognition and mood symptoms involve memory issues of the trauma, negative self-perception, and loss of interest in enjoyable activities
Long-term exposure to trauma, such as instances of domestic abuse, is the most common cause of dissociation. There are many symptoms involved in an episode of dissociation but can differ depending on the type. Some symptoms include:
- Experiencing out-of-body situations where individuals may feel like they are watching a movie of themselves
- Emotionally numb feelings where individuals are detached from personal emotions
- Depressive symptoms which may develop into major depressive disorder, resulting in even more health concerns
- Anxiety symptoms or disorders such as general anxiety disorder (GAD)
- Increased risk of suicidal thoughts or tendencies
- Significant memory loss due to dissociative episodes
- Losing a sense of self which can result in a lack of personal identity
Managing trauma-related mental health conditions can help alleviate symptoms and improve one’s overall quality of life.
How Can I Manage the Effects of Trauma?
Recovery from trauma is difficult, but it is available to anyone willing to try. A fulfilled life is worth putting in the effort to overcome trauma. There are many things individuals can do at home to help effectively cope and manage their trauma-related concerns. These are just some of the many beneficial practices that individuals can incorporate into their daily life.
- Practice calming techniques: Techniques such as meditation, yoga, or deep breathing exercises are ways to get centered and grounded
- Maintain good hygiene: Taking care of oneself can go a long way toward promoting positive mental health
- Eat healthily: A healthy diet has been shown to improve depression and anxiety
- Vocalize your thoughts and emotions: Isolation or bottling things up can make symptoms worse
- Exercise: Staying active releases endorphins which help improve mood and overall mental health
- Get on a schedule: A daily routine can help ensure that one gets enough sleep and lessens stress when one knows what to expect each day
If symptoms persist, treatment is an effective step to incorporate in addition to the above methods.
What Does Trauma Treatment Look Like?
Not everyone who experiences trauma will develop conditions like PTSD, dissociation, or resulting anxiety or depressive disorders. However, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t treatment available to those who don’t.
Treating trauma, whether it co-occurs with other disorders or not, can help greatly improve quality of life and mental health. Adding professional methods to a self-management plan increases the effectiveness of the things individuals practice at home. When seeking help, it is important to understand the options that are available.
Residential (or inpatient) treatment programs have been widely used in treating trauma-related concerns. In such a program, individuals will have access to 24-hour care from healthcare professionals. The benefits of this method include a positive and comfortable home-like environment, full-time access to the best help, and camaraderie. Individuals are able to interact with and enjoy the company of other individuals who are on similar recovery paths. Outpatient therapy offers similar services but is less intensive and allows clients to return home after their treatment hours are complete.
Both inpatient and outpatient trauma recovery plans involve therapy as part of the process. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is the most commonly used therapeutic modality in treating trauma. This form of therapy works as a way to problem solve. It teaches the individual how to identify specific triggers and negative thought patterns. The goal is to learn how to work through these issues independently and ultimately retain the brain to a more positive and productive way of thinking, resulting in more well-adjusted behaviors and fewer negative symptoms.
Treating trauma and its related issues can also require a form of medication. Prescription drugs may be used to alleviate the side effects that trauma can have on an individual. These include depression, anxiety, or insomnia. Antidepressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) can help by boosting serotonin levels. More serotonin can help regulate mood, appetite, and, in many cases, sleep.
Additionally, antianxiety medications may also be prescribed to aid in reducing anxiety-related symptoms. If insomnia or nightmares persist, prescriptions for sleep can help get individuals back on track for restful nights. Adding treatment to one’s recovery plan is a proactive and effective step toward a life without the challenges of trauma. Finding the right treatment option starts with contacting a mental health facility that specializes in trauma and its effects.
We understand the challenges you face. Trauma isn’t easy and, when ignored or left untreated, it can have serious effects. With the proper treatment, you can overcome your trauma. A bright and happy future is waiting for you on the other side of this difficult phase. Let us help you pull yourself out of and above your trauma so that you can be in control of each and every day. At Alter Behavioral Health, we offer a multitude of options to treat your trauma and related symptoms and conditions effectively and with kindness and care. Call Alter Behavioral Health at (866) 691-4386 for more information about our programs and how they can help.