Do you struggle with the same problem repeatedly? Maybe you’ve learned how to handle your stress, anxiety, or depression, but you still find yourself stuck or feel like something is wrong.
Old familiar patterns keep happening despite your best efforts, and you just don’t feel well.
If this sounds like you, then you may have unresolved trauma that is hijacking your mind and emotions.
What Is Trauma?
Trauma often gets in the way of learning, making it difficult to practice new thoughts and behaviors in your life. Trauma can be defined in many ways.
For our purposes here, a trauma is any event that results in feeling hopeless, helpless, victimized, neglected or shameful.
Traumatic experiences are often thought of solely as major accidents, the sudden loss of a loved one, or being the victim of a violent crime. But traumatic experiences are not exclusively catastrophes like these events.
Many traumatic experiences are seemingly ‘normal life events.’
Here’s a short list of traumatic experiences people reported in session. If you have experienced any of the following, you may have unresolved trauma:
- Parent forgetting to pick you up at school or somewhere else
- Feeling embarrassed by a parent for making a mistake in front of friends
- Being repeatedly criticized for doing something the wrong way / inadequately
- Raised with a parent who was emotionally unstable (yelling, screaming, storming off, blaming, criticizing, etc.)
- Growing up witnessing a parent with a substance abuse problem
- Receiving corporal punishment (hitting, spanking, pushing, slapping) from a parent for making mistakes or doing something wrong
- Living with a parent who was invalidating or dismissive of your feelings
- Going through a breakup or a divorce
- Getting beaten up or being physically intimidated
- Being sexually violated in any way (even if there is no physical touch involved)
- Ridiculed by friends or family for being yourself (i.e., a boy who likes pink and is made fun of for it because boys aren’t supposed to like pink)
- Growing up and identifying as gay in a family where that wasn’t acceptable or was considered shameful (This happens in many shapes/forms)
- Being the victim of a crime or accident
- Any active duty or veteran military with combat experience (real or simulated)
- Witnessing someone else being exposed to any of the above and fearing it may happen to you
Elements of Trauma
There are many ways that you may have experienced a traumatic event in addition to what is listed above. Common elements of a traumatic experience include something that:
- Happened suddenly/unexpectedly
- You couldn’t prepare for or prevent
- You felt powerless to prevent
- Happened repeatedly
- Someone was intentionally cruel to you
Trauma is more likely to occur in situations where one or more of these was true for you:
- Grew up in an unstable or unsafe environment
- Were separated from a parent or guardian
- Endured serious illness
- Underwent intrusive or invasive medical procedure(s)
- Were exposed to sexual, physical, or verbal abuse
- Witnessed or experienced violence of any kind
- Witnessed or experienced neglect of any kind (including emotional neglect)
- Grew up with a parent who was repeatedly emotionally unavailable for your needs as a child
It’s also important to know that you could have experiences not on the above lists that were traumatic for you.
Trauma is a complex issue that is experienced in different ways for everyone. Two people in the same situation may not have the same response, so it’s important for you to listen to the voice of your own experience.
If you feel you’ve been traumatized by any experience, it’s important to seek help.
If you’re unsure whether you’ve experienced trauma or not, here are some of the signs of trauma:
- Shock, denial, or disbelief of what occurred and if it was real
- Confusion about the details of what happened and/or difficulty retelling the story of the event
- Anger, irritability, mood swings for no clear reason
- Anxiety and fear: feeling unsafe, hypervigilance about your surroundings
- Guilt, shame, self-blame about/for what happened
- Withdrawing from others out of fear or feeling overwhelmed
- Feeling sad or hopeless about the future or healing from what happened
- Feeling disconnected or numb
- Insomnia or nightmares about the event
- Fatigue despite with or without disrupted sleep patterns
- Being startled easily by normal noises like a door opening/closing, people talking near you, getting a call or email from someone unexpectedly, a helicopter going overhead, a car backfiring, etc.
- Difficulty concentrating on daily tasks due to fear/worry about the event happening again
- Racing heartbeat for no clear reason
- Physical tension, aches and pains that are not easily explained
Everyone’s experience of trauma impacts them differently. For many people with pervasive anxiety and depression there is often undiagnosed trauma keeping the symptoms of anxiety or depression active.
If you find that several of the elements on the list above are true for you currently or perhaps are connected to a past event, you may have unresolved trauma preventing you from adjusting to life’s demands, growing emotionally, or making lasting change in your life.
If you’re considering treatment for trauma or other unresolved emotional issues and would like to learn more about how our treatment process applies to you, give us a call for your FREE 20-Minute consultation.
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