What is Trauma?

/What is Trauma?
What is Trauma? 2018-02-22T10:13:33+00:00

Something is traumatic if it causes terror and helplessness that overwhelm usual defenses.

Abuse, neglect, accidents, serious or prolonged illnesses, natural disasters, and combat can
cause myriad symptoms that interfere with love, work and play. Traumatic events cause the
brain and nervous system to go into crisis, and to move from normal to emergency systems of
making meaning and organizing memories. Frightening situations are processed quickly, but at
the cost of accuracy and completion. Language, time, sequencing, and higher order problem
solving are compromised, while the ability to defend against imminent danger is highly
engaged. Details essential to understanding and putting events into perspective are diminished
or lost.

The brain tries to put things together long after the traumatic events are over. Symptoms often
persist even when the person does not connect them to the original stressor.

They may be experienced in several ways, including intrusions, which come in the form of
visual, emotional, or somatic flashbacks; nightmares; disturbing images; or an inexplicable
sense of dread or doom. Avoidant symptoms involve efforts to keep away from people, places,
events and activities that may give rise to an increase in traumatic memories. Avoidant
symptoms often cause sufferers to become isolated from others. Arousal symptoms refer to
chronic stimulation of the nervous system, and include hyper-vigilance; startle response;
problems with attention, concentration, and impulse control; difficulty falling or staying asleep;
and risk-taking behavior. Dissociation comprises problems with memory, a sense of alienation
from oneself, “losing time,” chronic daydreaming, and marked changes in personality. Other
symptoms of traumatic stress may be depression, “chatter” in one’s mind that cannot be
stopped, feeling as if there are distinctly different parts to the self, and a belief that things
cannot get better.

Individuals with unresolved trauma frequently are diagnosed with multiple disorders and
conditions. Bipolar depression, borderline personality, ADD/ADHD, obsessive-compulsive
disorder, phobias, fibromyalgia, and migraine are common. While these may exist in addition to
traumatic stress, trauma causes symptoms that mimic many conditions, and when trauma is
resolved, many symptoms also may abate. Stress of any sort generally exacerbates most
conditions; therefore, reducing symptoms associated with stress can improve overall health
and wellness.

Trauma is like being alone in the ocean with nothing to hang on to. It makes you so tired, and you want someone to give you something to float on instead of being tossed and turned by the sea, and going under the water over and over again. You want something to give you safety and hope that you will get to the shore.

RC, Nashville

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