Traumatic signs don’t show up in everyone who goes through a traumatic event. But for many, going through these kinds of things can cause mental health problems that get in the way of daily life.
Sometimes these problems are so bad that they qualify as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
What is trauma?
Different people have different ideas about what trauma is, but in general, trauma is thought to be a mental response to a very upsetting event. These events can be as bad as rape, war, or a natural disaster, or they can be as upsetting as an accident or the death of a loved one.
How common stress is
Because trauma can be caused by a lot of different situations and mental health problems, it’s hard to say how common it really is.
However, the American Psychological Association says that about half of all people will experience at least one stressful event in their lifetime. Some sources say that number is even higher. Based on information about different types of stress, many of them are pretty common.
For instance, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration says that between 15% and 25% of women have been sexually abused, and 18.5% of soldiers who come home say they have PTSD or depression.
The American Psychological Association also says that women with PTSD are about twice as likely as men to get help for their symptoms, and they often wait longer to do so.
Signs and symptoms of trauma
PTSD symptoms are very different for each person, based on the type of traumatic event they went through and how they responded to it.
Having said that, here are some usual signs of trauma:
- Persistent sadness, anger, or mood swings: People who have been through trauma may have trouble controlling negative feelings that are very strong and/or hard to predict.
- Anxiety and trouble relaxing: One common response to trauma is what is called “hyper-vigilance,” which means that a person is always nervous, afraid, and aware of possible risks.
- Frequent flashbacks and/or dreams: You may remember the traumatic event or have nightmares about it.
- Sometimes people feel guilty or ashamed because they think the stress was their fault or that they should have handled it differently.
- Symptoms in the body can include headaches, stomach problems, or changes in the way you eat or sleep.
- Feeling numb or tired: You may feel mentally closed off and unable to connect with the people around you.
What kinds of trauma
Traumatic events can look like many things, and once more, not everyone who goes through them will show signs. However, some common ways that people react mentally to stress are:
- People with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) have some or all of the above signs for more than one month after a traumatic event. Some people with PTSD don’t show signs until more than six months after the traumatic event. This is called a delayed onset.
- It’s called Acute Stress Disorder, and it has the same kinds of events and symptoms as PTSD. However, it only lasts for one month or less. PTSD is what this problem is called if it lasts longer than one month.
- Collective trauma is a type of traumatic event, not a diagnosis. Collective trauma affects a whole town, country, or even group of people, with different reactions from each person in the group. Wars, genocides, mass shootings, natural disasters, and some effects of climate change are all examples of this type of stress.
What to do if you’re having problems because of stress
There are several things you can do if you’re having mental health issues that might be linked to trauma. Among them are:
- Find a therapist who can help you understand how your mind and emotions react to stress and who will use tried-and-true methods to help you feel better and improve your symptoms. (Read more about how to choose a therapist below.)
- Mindfulness practices: Meditation and mindfulness practice have been shown in some studies to help ease the mental health effects of stress. For people who have been through stressful events, the need for stillness and reflection in these practices can be upsetting. Because of this, you might want to start with short, easy practices or get one-on-one help from a more experienced practitioner.
What to do to find a trauma therapist
Choose the method that appeals to you.
There are different types of treatments that can help with problems caused by stress. Here are a few of the most common:
- CBT stands for cognitive behavioral therapy.
- Therapy based on psychology
- Treatment by exposure
- EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing.
- Help for a group
- Put personal fit first.
- Personality fit is a complicated thing, but it is very important for your therapy to go well. Several studies have shown how important this factor is. It is also sometimes called “therapeutic alliance.”
When you call the doctor for the first time, ask yourself:
- Could I see myself getting along with this therapist?
- Does the way they do things fit my personality?
- Do I think this doctor will listen to me and treat me with respect?
Besides that, think about these things:
- It’s possible for some therapists to spend most of the session hearing and thinking about your patterns and ways of coping.
- Some therapists are more directive and set weekly schedules and give clients work to do between meetings.
- Some people use certain methods or tools, like eye movements, tapping, guided images, art and music, exposure exercises, and so on.
- Some people use a mix of different methods.
Not used to therapy? Find out how to get in touch with a doctor here.