Recovering From the Effects of Traumatic Experiences

At some point in your life, you have a significant chance of being exposed to a major trauma. Some people are exposed as young children. Others go through a traumatic experience as an adult. Trauma puts a heavy emotional strain on your mental health. You may soon recover from this strain. However, you may also continue to suffer from its impact. When this happens, emotional trauma can have a seriously negative effect on your daily function well-being.

With support, you can heal from the effects of emotional trauma. As a rule, this requires assistance from trained mental health experts. An effective care team will help you create a realistic plan for trauma recovery. They will also guide you as you carry out that plan and take steps toward regaining wellness.

Definition of Emotional Trauma

Before addressing the effects of emotional trauma, it helps to define this term as clearly as possible. Experts define trauma as an emotional reaction to certain events. This reaction takes a wide range of forms. Right after a traumatic event, it is common to feel a sense of shock. You are also likely to deny the reality of what just occurred. Not long afterward, you may also begin to feel other things, such as:

  • An inability to focus or concentrate
  • A sense of detachment from other people
  • Unusual jumpiness that makes you easy to startle
  • Nightmares related to what happened
  • Uncontrollable memories of what happened
  • Lack of an ability to relax

Events capable of producing these emotional responses include:

  • Rape, sexual assault, and sexual abuse
  • Physical acts of abuse or assault
  • Emotional or physical neglect
  • Domestic violence
  • Verbal violence and other forms of emotional abuse
  • Living in an area affected by gang violence or war
  • Bullying
  • The death of a close loved one, especially when sudden
  • Floods and other disasters, whether manmade or natural

Adults are old enough to have mental defenses against trauma. These defenses usually allow you to recover from traumatic experiences on your own. However, this does not always happen. Some adults do not recover on their own. Instead, they go on to develop significant and often unpredictable problems. However, children and teenagers do not have the same defenses as adults. For this reason, they are more likely than adults to continue to suffer from emotional trauma.

Emotional Vs. Psychological Trauma

Mental health experts sometimes use different terms for the same thing. For example, some experts use the term psychological trauma instead of emotional trauma. In all practical senses, these two phrases are functionally identical.

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Symptoms of Emotional Trauma

The symptoms of emotional trauma can be immediate or appear sometime later. In addition to the symptoms already noted, things you may quickly experience include:

  • A sense of helplessness
  • Feeling like you have lost personal control
  • Lack of normal emotional responsiveness
  • Feelings of anger or rage
  • Thoughts that race back and forth
  • Losing your perception of time and space
  • Finding it hard to remember things

As time passes, other reactions may begin to emerge. Common examples here include:

  • A fluctuating mood
  • Irritability or anxiousness
  • A strong sense of grief
  • An inability to stop thinking about what happened
  • An unusual feeling of being vulnerable to harm

It is important to note that none of these trauma reactions are unusual. In one way or another, they appear in most people affected by a traumatic experience. Crucially, they tend not to last. However, when they do, they can lead to a serious downturn in your mental health. If this happens to you, seek help. If you do not, you may go on to develop serious problems.


Trauma, ASD and PTSD

Lingering trauma can lead to an illness called acute stress disorder, or ASD. It can also eventually lead to posttraumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. Most people have heard of PTSD. Acute stress disorder is not as widely known.

The symptoms of the two disorders are similar. They include such things as:

  • Unwanted and uncontrollable trauma reminders
  • A notable increase in negative thoughts and moods
  • Continued activation of your “fight-or-flight” response
  • A compelling urge to avoid reminders of the trauma

However, doctors diagnose each illness only in certain circumstances. You can only be diagnosed with ASD between three days and a month after a traumatic event. You can only be diagnosed with PTSD when the window for an ASD diagnosis closes. A PTSD diagnosis also has more strict criteria than ASD for the kinds of symptoms present.

Trauma and PTSD in the Brain

When you experience trauma, stress reactions occur in several areas of your brain. The affected areas help control your:

  • Fear responses
  • Memory
  • Higher mental functions

Usually, the alterations in your brain are not lasting. However, the situations changes in people with PTSD. Research shows that PTSD triggers changes in:

  • The size of the affected brain areas
  • The way in which those brain areas normally function

This means that the illness has an actual physical basis, as well as an emotional one.

Risks of Untreated Trauma

What are the risks of untreated trauma symptoms? If you do not receive treatment for acute stress disorder, you can develop PTSD. If you do not get treatment for PTSD, you expose yourself to a range of potential problems. These problems may include:

  • Drug or alcohol abuse and addiction
  • Thoughts of suicide or suicide attempts
  • A diagnosis of major depression or another depressive disorder
  • A diagnosable anxiety disorder
  • An eating disorder such as anorexia, bulimia or binge-eating disorder

The Childhood Trauma Connection

Childhood trauma can be especially corrosive. In adults, it can lead to lasting deficits in emotional health and well-being. It can also contribute to your risks for additional problems if your traumatic illness goes untreated.


Trauma and Addiction

The connection between trauma and addiction is a well-established fact. That is particularly true for childhood trauma. Trauma at this age has been linked to future problems with:

  • Alcohol
  • Cocaine
  • Opioids
  • Marijuana

The greater your exposure to trauma, the greater your typical level of substance use. In turn, both childhood trauma and substance use are linked to your risks for PTSD. This is true whether or not you experience a traumatic event as an adult.

Tactics to Treat Emotional Trauma

Fortunately, mental health experts have developed effective tactics for treating emotional trauma. If you suffer from acute stress disorder, you may receive something called psychological first aid. This a rapid form of support that helps you deal with trauma by explaining what is happening to you.

However, the main treatment for ASD is cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT. There are forms of CBT designed specifically to help people affected by lingering trauma. This therapy helps you identify and change thoughts, emotions and behaviors that can make your symptoms worse. It can ease the effects of ASD. It can also reduced your chances of later developing PTSD.

PTSD is also treated largely with cognitive behavioral therapy. In addition, you may benefit from family therapy, interpersonal therapy, or psychodynamic or supportive therapy. Many people receive medication-based help in the form of antidepressants. You may also receive an anti-anxiety medication or something to help you sleep.

Inpatient Treatment for Emotional Trauma and PTSD

Some people are affected by trauma and PTSD more than others. If your symptoms are moderate-to-severe, you may require inpatient care. Inpatient treatment for emotional trauma and PTSD provides you more time to receive help for your symptoms. It also offers a stable, safe environment in which to heal. And if you have any emergency medical issues, inpatient care helps ensure access to rapid assistance.

Daily Activities to Lessen Trauma

If you have gone through a traumatic event, you can take steps to reduce your risks for serious problems. Daily activities that can lessen trauma include things such as:

  • Regular exercise
  • Eating plenty of healthy foods
  • Devoting adequate time for sleep

It is a good idea to do all of these things at scheduled times. Why? The regularity of keeping a schedule has its own calming effect on your mental health. It is also important to know what not to do. One thing emphasized by experts is avoiding any life-changing decisions until you feel better. This is true because such major changes will only add to your stress levels even more.

Seek Help for Trauma-Related Illnesses at Emerald Isle Recovery

Short-term emotional trauma is a natural reaction to certain kinds of extremely stressful events. However, in certain circumstances, you may continue to feel this trauma as time passes. If this happens, you can develop a trauma-related illness such as acute stress disorder or PTSD. Illnesses of this type must be treated. Otherwise, your mental health can continue to deteriorate. You are most likely to develop serious problems as a consequence of childhood trauma.

At Emerald Isle, we specialize in the treatment of trauma-related illnesses. Our customized care programs address your specific healing needs. At the same time, they follow modern-day guidelines for the most effective recovery methods. If appropriate, you can take advantage of one of our outpatient mental health programs. We also offer inpatient care if this is a better option for you. For more information on our trauma treatment options, call us today.

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