Emotional trauma is a result of an extraordinarily stressful event that shatters your sense of security, making you feel helpless in a dangerous world. Traumatic experiences often involve a threat to life or safety. However, any situation that leaves you feeling overwhelmed and isolated can result in trauma, even if it doesn’t involve physical harm. Your subjective emotional experience of the event is what determines an event is traumatic not the objective circumstances.
Emotional trauma can be caused by:
- One-time events, such as an accident, injury, or a violent attack, especially if it was unexpected or happened in childhood. These events can take some time to manifest into trauma, and it can be a smell or small trigger that brings the memory back.
- Ongoing, relentless stress, such as living in a crime-ridden neighbourhood, battling a life-threatening illness or experiencing traumatic events that occur repeatedly, such as bullying, domestic violence, or childhood neglect.
- Commonly overlooked cases, such as surgery, the sudden death of someone close, the breakup of a significant relationship, or humiliating or deeply disappointing experience, especially if someone was deliberately cruel.
We all react to trauma in different ways. By experiencing a wide range of physical and emotional reactions. There is no “right” or “wrong” way to think, feel, or respond, so do not judge your own reactions and those of other people. Your responses are normal reactions to abnormal events. Emotional symptoms include:
- Shock, denial, or disbelief
- Confusion, difficulty concentrating
- Anger, irritability, mood swings
- Anxiety and fear
- Guilt, shame, self-blame
- Withdrawing from others
- Feeling sad or hopeless
- Feeling disconnected or numb
Trauma symptoms typically last from a few days to a few months, gradually fading as you process the unsettling event. You may be troubled from time to time by painful memories or emotions, especially in response to triggers such as an anniversary of the event or something that reminds you of the trauma. The following tips can help you to cope with the sense of grief, heal from the trauma, and move on with your life.
Trauma disrupts your body’s natural equilibrium, freezing you in a state of fear. It also burns off adrenaline and releases endorphins. Exercise and movement can actually help to repair your nervous system. You should, therefore, try to exercise for thirty minutes or more on most days, exercise that is rhythmic and adds a mindfulness element.
Do not isolate
You may want to withdraw from others, but isolation only makes things worse. Connecting others face to face helps you heal. You, therefore, should make an effort to maintain your relationships and avoid spending too much time alone. You need to be able to ask for support. You don’t have to talk about the trauma, but participate in social activities, reconnect with old friends, join a support group for trauma survivors, volunteer, and make new friends. Most importantly, you need to get help with emotional trauma with dedicated treatment.
Self-regulate your nervous system
No matter out of control you feel, it is essential to know that you can change your nervous system and discover techniques to calm yourself.
Recovering from trauma takes time, and everyone heals at their own pace. In order to heal from emotional trauma, you will need to resolve the unpleasant feelings and memories you have long avoided regulate strong emotions and rebuild the ability to trust. If months have passed and your symptoms aren’t letting up, you may need professional help from a trauma expert.