If you’ve ever experienced a traumatic event, you know the lasting impact it can have on your life. Recovering from such an experience is possible, but it will likely take time. Emotional trauma, as opposed to physical trauma, can be especially difficult to treat due to its ambiguous nature. These scarring events can take place over time or in a singular moment; they could result from a physical or verbal interaction.
Let’s look at how to recognize emotional trauma and the steps you can take to begin to recover.
What is Emotional Trauma?
Emotional trauma, also referred to as psychological trauma, is the brain’s natural response to a terrible life event like an accident, assault, or natural disaster (American Psychiatric Association). Sometimes it’s difficult to know if an event was “traumatic”, but there are some questions you can ask yourself to help determine if you’ve experienced a traumatic event.
- Was this a negative experience in your life?
- Does this event stand out as “especially bad” when compared to others?
- Do you find yourself replaying what happened in your head?
- Do you have a reaction (physical or emotional) to scenarios that are similar to this event?
- Are you worried about this happening again?
If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, you likely have experienced a traumatic event. These moments are considered life-altering because the effect they have can change how you view and interact with the world around you.
The Effects of Trauma
The effects of trauma vary from person to person, but there are some common symptoms that people experience. Some of the potential effects trauma can have on a person’s physical and mental health include:
- Increased anxiety, sadness, or irritability
- Difficulty concentrating
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Reliving the experience through flashbacks
- Avoiding places or events that bring back memories of the event
- Substance use
Not everyone who experiences a traumatic event will have the same reaction to it because we all experience and respond to life differently. Think about a time when you watched a movie together with friends. You went to see the same film in the same place, but you likely each had different moments that stuck out to you. The same applies to events that are life-altering. Despite having experienced the same moment as another person, it will affect you in a different way. For this reason, it’s important to not compare your experiences and reactions to others. Above all else, remember that your emotions are valid.
Recovering from Emotional Trauma
The effects of trauma often require professional help. Having a safe space where you can process what has happened is vital to your recovery from the event. Professional care can also provide you with coping skills to manage the effects you are experiencing. It’s not uncommon for those who are experiencing emotional trauma to turn to substance use as a means of coping, but this is a dangerous practice to engage in.
Rest assured that help for emotional trauma is available to you, and you can start from wherever you are today. Some treatment practices to cope with and process trauma include:
- Journaling about the event
- Talk therapy (such as cognitive-behavioral therapy)
- Engaging in self-care practices
- Creating a list of supportive people you can reach out to
- Developing an “escape plan” for difficult situations
- Practicing deep breathing or mindfulness exercises
If you or someone you love have turned to substance use to cope with a traumatic life event, they should seek professional help. At Vista Taos, we provide evidence-based treatment for substance use disorders alongside trauma-informed therapy. We work with each individual to navigate their traumatic event, or events, in a safe space to help them heal from their experiences. Through processing these events, we have seen lasting results in addiction recovery. If you or someone you love would benefit from trauma-informed substance use disorder treatment, contact us today.