November 20, 2023
Psychological Trauma has many faces. Trauma occurs after an individual suffers acute stress, during which there is a break in a sense of emotional, psychological, and physical safety. Though there are endless catalyst events that can cause Trauma, signs and symptoms of Trauma can often be misdiagnosed or misunderstood. The following are lists and facts about psychological Trauma to observe in your loved ones and yourself.
Silver Lining Behavioral Health therapists work with all levels of Trauma, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and Complex PTSD, utilizing talk therapy, scientifically proven methods of treatment such as Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), and when appropriate, psychiatric intervention.
MOST COMMON CAUSES OF TRAUMA
- Physical and Sexual Abuse / Assault
- Death of a loved one
- Witnessing others experiencing pain or being forced to administer pain
- Forced to commit Trauma upon others
- Seeing war carnage or death
- A brush with mortality (Ex. Surviving an automobile accident)
- Troubling medical diagnosis
- Betrayal by a loved one
- Natural disasters
- Perception of one’s life being in peril
POST TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER (PTSD) and COMPLEX POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER (CPTSD)
- PTSD can affect anyone (children and older adults)
- There has to be Trauma as a catalyst.
- Prolonged signs and symptoms of Trauma are marked by mentally reliving the traumatic event through flashbacks.
- Trauma interferes with professional functioning.
- Trauma interferes with interpersonal relationships.
- Complex PTSD is caused by continuous Trauma (Ex. Child sexual abuse)
- Self-concept issues are impacted by both PTSD and CPTSD
- Rumination on revenge, if there was a perpetrator, is a component of CPTSD.
- Trust issues in relationships are common and may lead to abuse.
- The need to be with or over-focus on having a relationship with the perpetrator can be observed in CPTSD
- Loss of personal meaning is common in PTSD and CPTSD.
PHYSIOLOGICAL SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS TO LOOK OUT FOR
- Loss of appetite
- Loss of libido
- Compromised immune system
- Muscle aches and pains
- Insomnia or Hypersomnia
- Nightmares and Night Terrors
EMOTIONAL SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS TO LOOK OUT FOR
- Depression – Hopelessness and Helplessness
- Crying spells
- Anxiety and Panic Attacks
- Agitation and Anger
- Guilt and Shame
- Suicidal ideation
- Arousal – Seeking an adrenaline rush
BEHAVIORAL SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS TO LOOK OUT FOR
- Avoidance (locations, people, thoughts, etc. associated with the event)
- Substance use
- Physical altercations
- High-risk behaviors
- Crying spells
- Symptoms of obsession (rigidness)
- Compulsive behaviors
- Detachment from family
- Leaving employment
- Loss of relationships or withdrawal from relationships.
- Kids may try to reenact the traumatic events during play.
PSYCHOLOGICAL SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS TO LOOK OUT FOR:
Changing the individual’s perception of self and the surrounding environment
- Changes in perception of self: I am …
- Changes in perception of life: Life is … What’s the use …
- Confusion between love and abuse
- Minimized self-worth
- Suicidal ideation
- Thoughts that may occur when an individual suffers from PTSD or CPTSD: I am not good. I do not deserve to be happy. People like me never find love. People like me never become rich. The world is dangerous. I am suffering for my past sins. The people who abused me were my friends and were misunderstood. The people who beat me loved me; they were doing it because they loved me. I am weak. I have to please people, or they will abandon me. I am alone. I deserve to be alone. I will not live to see my kid grow up. My life is not in my control.
Dissociation: Often happens shortly after or during Trauma.
- Dissociative Amnesia: Memory Loss “I don’t remember why I am here. I don’t remember me.” NOTE: This is why survivors of assault may not remember specifics when being questioned by the police.
- Fugue State: A person wanders with a lapse in memory.
- Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) – A rare response to Trauma that is important to mention. Though DID is highly complex, for this disorder to exist, there must be identifiable Alters and a Host Identity.
- Depersonalization – Observing one’s own body during a traumatic event.
WHAT IS A FLASHBACK?
- Reliving of the Trauma.
- Flashbacks are on a continuum but can be very acute.
- Nightmares. Victims of Trauma can relive the events in their sleep.
- Emotional flashbacks.
- Visual stimuli, auditory stimuli, olfactory stimuli, kinesthetic stimuli, etc can trigger flashbacks.
- Flashbacks may be experienced as a terrifying feeling that travels through the body.
- It is crucial to seek mental health treatment as soon as possible if signs and symptoms continue for over a month.
- Get emergency assistance if intrusive thoughts become suicidal or cause too much distress.
- Regular practice of Emotional Regulation Exercises can help.
- Talking about Trauma with loved ones is essential. A person needs at least one individual to be vulnerable with.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is one of the treatments of choice.
- Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is effective in treating Trauma.
- Talk Therapy and Mindfulness Training
- Develop a self-care plan.
- As appropriate, Medication
Psychological Trauma impacts millions of people every year. Unfortunately, too often, the observed signs and reported symptoms are not immediately or accurately identified. We have only scratched the surface. Hopefully, the above information assists in offering an overview of what to look for in your clients, loved ones, and yourself.