Trauma and Difficult Life Events

What is Trauma?

A difficult and disturbing life event, outside of your control, that leaves a lasting impact.

Types of Trauma

We typically think of traumas as disastrous life altering events such as natural disasters, car wrecks, violence, crime, abuse, or war. But trauma can also include any disturbing event or events outside of your control such as medical diagnosis, childbirth, humiliation, bullying, and living or working in a chaotic environment to name a few. We ALL experience traumas at some points in our lives and they come in many forms.

  • Acute trauma – A single disturbing event that involves one trauma
    •  such as a house fire, or single incident of abuse.
  • Chronic trauma – Multiple or repetitive negative events
    •  such as community violence or bullying.
  • Complex trauma – Multiple or repetitive disturbing experiences most often of an interpersonal nature.  
    • such as ongoing abuse or neglect in a household. Complex Trauma typically reflects an environment where chaos is almost always present.
  • Secondary Trauma – Occurs from knowing about a traumatizing event experienced by someone with whom you are in a close relationship, coupled with the stress from helping or wanting to help.
    • such as a child experiencing medical trauma.
  • Vicarious Trauma – Occurs when there is indirect exposure to a traumatic event
    • such as hearing about traumas of others on the news or working with populations that experience many traumas.

What Are The Symptoms of Trauma?

Emotional Effects

  • Shock or denial
  • Anger, irritability, mood swings
  • Fear, worry
  • Guilt, shame, self-blame
  • Ambivalence
  • Numbness
  • Feelings of powerlessness
  • Self-doubt
  • Feelings of inadequacy
  • Sadness

Physical Effects

  • Ulcers or intestinal problems,
  • Muscle tension or general aches and pains
  • Chronic headaches
  • Unexplained medical ailments
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Sleep changes
  • Eating changes
  • hypervigilance
  • Concentration difficulties
  • Reactionary cycle of fight, flight, freeze or fawn

Psychological Effects of Trauma

  • Anxiety
  • Depression 
  • Panic
  • PTSD
  • Substance abuse
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Flashbacks, intrusive memories and nighmares

Relational Effects of Trauma

  • Fear of betrayal
  • Inability to trust self or others
  • Pushing away close relationships
  • Self distrust
  • Creating conflict 

Counseling Works

 When you experience trauma, your brain wants to process and make sense of the event but human nature typically causes us to push reminders and memories out of our minds in order to function in day to day life. The juxtaposition of our brain trying to process, while we push back and try to forget can cause the symptoms listed above. Opening up yourself to therapy- a safe space where you allow your brain the processing its looking for- can reduce trauma symptoms and allow much needed relief.

I am also trained in providing EMDR therapy. EMDR is a very effective intervention recognized as an effective form of trauma treatment by the American Psychiatric AssociationDepartment of Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and the World Health Organization. In short, I use EMDR because it works.

For a more detailed description of the eight phases of EMDR therapy, read our article HERE