Trauma doesn’t define you, but it can feel that way sometimes. Did something happen to you that left you feeling scared, sad, confused, and overwhelmed? Are you tired of the past ruling the present? Have you tried so many different things to forget what happened? Some things might have worked temporarily, but it never lasted long. It doesn’t seem like something that happened in the past should be so impactful, right?
You often tell yourself that other people have bad experiences, too. But they seem to be okay. Sometimes you wonder what makes your situation different. Other times, you try to convince yourself that it wasn’t that bad and you’re overreacting. Or, maybe you often feel like it was your fault. Somehow, you feel like you did something to deserve it.
What you’ve experienced is a trauma, and you don’t have to live with the emotional aftermath of being exposed to a traumatic event.
What Is a Trauma?
Trauma is the response to an extremely distressing event or events (referred to as a traumatic event) that overwhelms our ability to cope. There are different types of traumas. Trauma experiences are often divided into big ‘T’ trauma and little ‘t’ trauma. Big ‘T’ traumas are events that are life-threatening. These are usually the events that pop into our heads when we think about a trauma, such as exposure to combat, experiencing a dangerous car accident, sexual assault, and physical abuse. Little ‘t’ traumatic events are situations that aren’t life-threatening, but they are still negatively impactful. This can be the loss of a loved one, bullying, or a bad relationship, for example. Both types of traumas can be a result of a single event or a series of exposures.
What Are the Common Symptoms of Trauma?
When someone is exposed to a traumatic event, their response can vary. In fact, two people could experience the exact same trauma at the exact same time, but their trauma responses could be completely different. This is a result of resiliency factors (e.g., strong social support network) and risk factors (e.g., previous history of traumatic events) that vary among people. Although symptoms of trauma can vary, some of the most common are:
- Frequent unwanted thoughts about the trauma
- Avoiding situations, places, or people that remind you of your trauma
- Suicidal thoughts
- Extreme awareness of your surroundings
- Difficulty concentrating
- Anger and irritability
Do I Have a Psychological Disorder?
If you’ve experienced a traumatic event, it’s normal to experience at least some of these symptoms for a period of time. This is a completely natural response, which allows our body and mind to heal from trauma. For some people, these symptoms persist, causing extreme distress and difficulty functioning at home, work, or with friends and family.
The most common psychological disorder caused by trauma is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). PTSD is a cluster of symptoms that include unwanted memories of the traumatic event, avoiding any reminder of the negative experience, and a drastic change in your thoughts, mood, and emotional reactions to others. It’s important to know that PTSD is not the only psychological disorder that can result from a trauma exposure. Both mood and anxiety disorders can develop in people who have had traumatic experiences.
Can Psychological Therapy Help?
As therapists who work with people who have experienced trauma, we know that living with trauma is exhausting. We understand that you often feel like you have to be on guard or constantly aware of everything going on around you. Luckily, we can help you through our work together. We will work together to clean up the mess left behind by trauma and restore you to your authentic self.
There are many different treatment options for people exposed to traumatic events. For people who have been diagnosed with PTSD, Sentience Psychological Services primarily utilizes a treatment called prolonged exposure therapy. This treatment gives you the opportunity to emotionally digest the trauma in a controlled and safe environment.
It provides you with a path to adjust your perspective of the events in a healthy manner. It also provides you with an avenue to systematically face people, places, and things that you have avoided as a result of the traumatic event. By doing this, your fear, terror, and anxiety will likely decrease. This treatment can be used as the catalyst to re-introducing yourself to the person that you were before the traumatic event occurred.
How Do I Get Help?
You don’t have to cope with what you have experienced on your own anymore. Sentience Psychological Services has therapists who can help. Our team of therapists in the Phoenix area are trained to provide specialized therapy to people who have been exposed to trauma. We can help you manage the impact of the traumatic event and navigate new experiences. Reach out to us today.