How To Deal With Trauma Triggers

5 Ways To Help You Deal With Psychological Trauma

Emerging from a variety of sources, such as accidents, abuse, violence, a traumatic brain injury, combat, childhood trauma, loss of a loved one, natural disasters, and many more, trauma leaves a permanent mark on an individual’s psyche, encapsulating the intricate aftermath of distressing or life-altering events. These experiences etch lasting impressions on those affected. Learning how to deal with psychological trauma is the first step toward overcoming it.

A group of friends standing in a field with arms around each other, learning how to heal psychological trauma.

What Is Psychological Trauma?

Psychological trauma refers to the emotional and psychological impact after a distressing or life-threatening event or series of events. The effects of these events leave lasting imprints, affecting an individual’s ability to cope. The effects of psychological trauma can be profound and can manifest in various ways, impacting an individual’s thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.

Psychological Trauma Symptoms

Common symptoms of psychological trauma include intrusive thoughts, flashbacks, nightmares, heightened anxiety, mood swings, and emotional numbness. Physical symptoms such as headaches, digestive issues, and sleep disturbances may also be a result of trauma. If you’ve experienced psychological trauma, you may find it challenging to trust others or withdraw from social interactions to cope with the stress you’re dealing with. Let’s examine these symptoms in detail below:

Emotional Symptoms of Psychological Trauma:

  • Intrusive Thoughts and Memories: If you’ve experienced trauma, you may experience recurrent and distressing thoughts or traumatic memories; these can be overwhelming and difficult to control.
  • Flashbacks: Involuntary flashbacks are typically vivid and accompanied by feelings of reliving or re-experiencing the trauma.
  • Emotional Numbness: Emotional numbness can be a way for some individuals to cope with trauma. This disconnection from emotions reduces their ability to feel joy, sadness, or other things.
  • Mood Swings: Mood fluctuations and the inability to regulate emotions are common emotional responses to trauma. This may include moods ranging from intense anger and irritability to extreme sadness.
  • Increased Anxiety: Trauma survivors may experience heightened levels of anxiety. This common symptom can lead to persistent worrying, restlessness, and a constant fear of impending danger.
  • Depression, Guilt, and Shame: Depressive symptoms are common in individuals with prolonged exposure to trauma. These may include feelings of hopelessness, low energy, changes in appetite, and a decreased interest in activities. In addition to depressive symptoms, trauma survivors also often grapple with guilt and shame, believing they could have prevented the event or are somehow to blame.
  • Difficulty Trusting Others: When learning how to deal with psychological trauma, establishing and maintaining healthy relationships can be challenging. Trauma can erode trust in others, making the fear of vulnerability and betrayal hard to establish social connections.
  • Hypervigilance: Hypervigilance is prevalent among trauma survivors. This exaggerated vigilance can manifest in heightened anxiety levels and a constant scanning of the environment for perceived dangers.

Physical Symptoms of Psychological Trauma:

  • Headaches: If you’ve experienced psychological trauma, you may experience frequent headaches as a physical manifestation of stress. Headaches can range from tension-type to migraine.
  • Gastrointestinal Issues: Gastrointestinal issues are no stranger to those with trauma. If you’ve had digestive issues, like stomach aches, nausea, or changes in bowel movements, it can all point to trauma. The connection between the gut and the brain suggests that emotional stress can manifest as physical symptoms in the stomach.
  • Fatigue: Fatigue is a serious issue that can dramatically affect your personal and professional life. And it can be a sign of severe psychological trauma. The emotional toll of trauma can cause feelings of fatigue and low energy levels, contributing to physical exhaustion.
  • Sleep Disturbances: Coinciding with fatigue, trauma often disrupts sleep, exacerbating the impact of trauma on your mental health. Insomnia, nightmares, and frequent wakings during the night can all result from trauma.
  • Muscle Tension and Pain: As mentioned above, chronic emotional stress can manifest physically, increasing pain and muscle tension.
  • Cardiovascular Symptoms: Trauma can activate the body’s sympathetic nervous system. The fight or flight stress response can cause an increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure, dizziness, trembling, and rapid breathing.

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Psychological Effects of Trauma

When learning how to deal with psychological trauma, understand that trauma has a ripple effect on all aspects of your life. Chronic trauma can spawn into post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety disorders, and personality disorders. Comprehending these effects is critical in overcoming psychological trauma.

How To Deal With Trauma Triggers

1. Practice Self-Care

When practicing self-care, do what feels good to you. Self-care is a foundational aspect of healing from psychological trauma. Prioritize activities or hobbies that you enjoy and that contribute to your physical and mental well-being. Focusing on activities that bring you joy, relaxation, or a sense of accomplishment can help you feel like you have control of your life. This might include exercise, meditation, creative pursuits, or simply spending time in nature.

2. Accept How You’re Feeling

Accepting how you’re feeling and acknowledging the emotions associated with trauma is the next step in the healing process. It’s normal to feel anger, sadness, fear, and confusion, but suppressing these emotions can drag out the healing process even further. Acceptance can help you gradually move toward recovery by learning how to navigate difficult emotions.

3. Connect With Others

Isolation can significantly intensify the effects of trauma. Resist the urge to withdraw from social interactions. Engaging in face-to-face connections is a vital component that triggers the release of hormones and provides a sense of stress relief. Sharing your traumatic experiences is not a prerequisite for seeking support from others.

Reaching out doesn’t necessarily mean discussing the traumatic event; rather, finding comfort lies in connecting and participating in activities with trusted people and loved ones—activities and people unrelated to the triggering event. Reaching out to friends and loved ones through video chat, telephone calls, social media, or text messaging can also foster a sense of connection, especially during challenging times.

4. Stress Management & Minimizing Social Media

Chronic stress can halt the process when recovering and learning how to deal with psychological trauma. Try minimizing stress through techniques like deep breathing, mindfulness, yoga, or whatever helps you regulate your nervous system.

Engaging your senses and incorporating movement brings you into the present, promoting a sense of grounding and facilitating deeper, calmer breaths. Seek solace outdoors, finding a serene spot on the grass to sit and feel supported by the earth.

Minimize exposure to triggering content online and on social media. Set boundaries for yourself and create a safe online environment to help prevent re-traumatization.

5. Seek Professional Help

If you’re noticing signs of psychological trauma, seeking professional trauma therapy in NYC or near where you live is fundamental in helping you heal your trauma. A psychiatrist, counselor, or mental health professional trained in trauma-focused therapies can help guide you in the healing process. Therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), group therapy, teen therapy, and medication or a combination can be effective in treating trauma-related symptoms.

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How To Recover From Psychological Trauma

Recovering and treating psychological trauma is a gradual and individualized process. Recovery takes time.

Creating a sense of safety following trauma encompasses a holistic strategy. Nurturing a support system of trusted individuals, practicing self-care, seeking professional assistance as necessary, and gradually reintegrating into activities that foster comfort and a perception of control.

Recovery doesn’t mean turning a blind eye to the past or remaining impervious to the impact of the experience. It doesn’t involve concealing the trauma and pretending it never occurred, nor does it entail downplaying or dismissing it.

The journey of recovery and understanding how to deal with psychological trauma involves patience, self-compassion, and incremental steps toward reclaiming a sense of safety and overall well-being. Additionally, grounding techniques, trigger awareness and prevention strategies, meditation, and focused breathing can help address emotional dysregulation.

Resilience is invaluable in trauma recovery, embodying the ability to adapt and progress despite challenges. By fostering emotional, mental, and behavioral flexibility, resilience becomes a powerful tool that aids individuals in navigating the intricate journey of healing. It serves as a guiding force, enabling those affected to respond effectively to any circumstances while fostering the strength and adaptability that are crucial for overcoming the aftermath of trauma.

With a blend of time, patience, and unwavering support, rediscover a sense of balance and resilience. Your path to healing begins here.

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