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Dealing with Trauma

At some point, many of us will experience what is known as a traumatic event. A traumatic event is an event that involves relational trauma, death, serious injury or sexual violence. These events can either be threatened or actually experienced. They are by nature emotionally overwhelming or shocking.

Examples of traumatic events include:

  • Abuse (emotional or physical)
  • Rape and sexual assault
  • Traumatic invalidation or bullying
  • Hurricanes and other natural disasters
  • Gun violence, car accidents and terror attacks
  • Military combat

Traumatic events may cause debilitating symptoms that are short-term (acute) or long-term (chronic). Individuals who develop long-lasting, chronic symptoms may be diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Symptoms following a trauma

Following a traumatic event, an individual may feel jumpy, have unpleasant memories, or have trouble sleeping. It may be hard to focus on work or take care of responsibilities at home. For most people, these unpleasant feelings will go away after a few weeks or months. However, if these feelings get worse — or do not go away after a few months — an individual may be experiencing posttraumatic stress disorder.

Trauma-related symptoms may come and go over time or even take several months or years to develop.

Primary symptoms of PTSD include:

Re-experiencing the traumatic event (having flashbacks or nightmares)

Avoiding situations reminiscent of the trauma (including avoiding talking about it)

Feeling negative about one’s self (feeling shame, guilt, etc.)

Feeling hyper alert or hyper aroused (jittery, angry, irritable, startled easily, etc.)

Risk factors for PTSD

It is estimated that 7 to 8 percent of people will experience PTSD in their lifetime, according to the National Center for PTSD. Risk factors for PTSD include:

  • Lacking a strong social support network
  • Having a close family member with a mental illness
  • Being under high levels of stress when the trauma occurs
  • Having a history of or current substance abuse
  • Experiencing a highly intense or long-lasting traumatic event

Treatment for trauma-related conditions can include medication, support groups and talk therapy.

Find help for trauma and stress

It’s never too late to get help following a trauma. Recovery is possible with supportive, collaborative mental health treatment.

If you think that you or someone you love may have mental health symptoms due to a trauma, please know that help is available. Call us at (877) 711-1878 to speak with one of our Master’s-level clinicians about any mental health concerns. We offer free, confidential consultations.