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The Road To Healing, Processing Trauma and Mental Health -There are resources to help and support your journey.

If you recently suffered through a traumatic event, it can be comforting to know that you’re not alone. According to the Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Alliance, as many as seven in 10 adults in the United States have experienced some sort of traumatic event at some point in their lives. Only one in five of those adults develop PTSD, indicating that there is always the possibility to heal from your trauma. Although undoubtedly difficult, working with a professional to process the painful emotions can relieve some of the symptoms that follow trauma. Read on to find out more about identifying trauma, how to begin recovery, and the potential long-term effects of trauma.

The Road To Healing - Processing Trauma and Mental Health

Common causes of trauma

Trauma can be caused by a wide variety of events — big or small, short or long. These are just a few of the most common causes of emotional and psychological trauma. Of course, there are many others, and if your specific cause isn’t listed, it’s still very much a valid reason. Seek the help of a medical professional to further evaluate your situation.

One-time events

  • Accident or injury
  • Violent attack
  • Natural disaster
  • Divorce
  • Miscarriage
  • Loss of a job or financial stability
  • Abuse of any kind, including sexual, physical, or verbal abuse

Ongoing, long-term stress

  • Battling a life-threatening illness (yourself or a loved one)
  • An unstable or unsafe living environment
  • Domestic violence
  • Neglect
  • Abuse of any kind, including sexual, physical, or verbal abuse

Often overlooked causes of trauma

  • Death of a pet
  • Loss of a dream
  • Retirement
  • Selling a family home
  • Loss of a friendship

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Symptoms of trauma

Much like the causes of trauma, trauma survivors display a number of different symptoms. If you find yourself displaying any combination of these behaviors, consider whether you’re ready to work through your trauma. It might be time to begin processing your trauma to avoid the long-term consequences of unresolved trauma.

Emotional & psychological symptoms

  • Avoidance of social settings, friends, and family
  • Uncharacteristic anger or irritability
  • Guilt or shame
  • Grief and depression
  • Increased cynicism
  • Drug and alcohol abuse

Physical symptoms

  • Insomnia and/or fatigue
  • Nightmares
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Being startled easily
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Aches, pains, and muscle tension

Phases of trauma recovery

When you’re in the middle of dealing with trauma, the road can look long and even impossible at times, but recovery is always possible. Everyone’s situation is different, but in general there are three stages of trauma recovery, including shock, processing, and action. Once you move through these three stages, you’ll be in the recovery or reintegration phase where you return to your normal life as much as possible.

1. Shock

The initial feeling following a traumatic event is often a numb or detached feeling. This phase is otherwise known as denial. This is because humans can only process so much emotionally and physically before they shut down as a coping mechanism.

Interestingly, physical symptoms seem to disappear during this stage, which can often mask the trauma and lull people into a false sense of recovery. As appealing as this is in the short-term, it’s important to work through your trauma for long-term health. That being said, it can be hard to want to move from the shock phase into the processing phase as it can be highly emotionally taxing. Take your time and only proceed when you feel ready and willing to make a change. Moving too quickly can be detrimental to the recovery process.

2. Processing

Once you’ve accepted that the trauma occurred and is negatively affecting your life, the best way to get through it is to reprocess the memories. For minor traumas this may mean just talking through the event with trusted friends and family; however, major traumas almost always benefit from the help of a trained professional.

There are several different types of therapy that can help you if you have experienced trauma — it’s all about finding what’s right for you.

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy can help you talk through your trauma and change behavior patterns that are causing you distress.
  • Cognitive processing therapy is a 12-week treatment that teaches you how to live with your trauma.
  • Prolonged exposure therapy helps you confront the traumatic event.
  • Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is a way to reprocess trauma memories in a way that is less debilitating. If you happen to be in the Colorado-area, the Colorado Counseling Center is a great resource to find a therapist who is licensed to perform EMDR or any other the other therapy modalities mentioned.
  • Music and art therapy can help people who aren’t ready to talk about their trauma to begin the processing phase. There are numerous facilities and care providers who offer this type of treatment. For example, Music For The Soul uses the power of songs and stories to create hope and eventual healing in their patients.

Even if you aren’t ready to share your story with a therapist right away, learning to express yourself through various modalities at home can aid in your recovery journey. Any form of creative expression from writing and drawing to music and poetry can be beneficial. You can choose to keep your creations to yourself or share them with your most-trusted friends and family.

3. Action

Finding ways to take action against your trauma will give you power over your own life again. Wouldn’t it be nice to rid yourself of the feeling that your trauma is controlling you or holding you back? Of course, this step can’t come without putting in the work from step two. Otherwise, you’ll be back in the shock or denial phase.

Here are a few examples of empowering actions that have helped trauma survivors move past their trauma:

  • Hosting speaking events to boost awareness
  • Donating to charities that work to combat the trauma you experienced
  • Starting a fund for people going through similar traumas to get help

Emotional Trauma

Long-term effects of trauma

If trauma is left unaddressed it can lead to a variety of mental and physical health problems, including but not limited to:

  • Self-destructive or impulsive behaviours
  • Intrusive thoughts
  • Feelings of shame, guilt, or hopelessness
  • Behavior changes like hostility or argumentativeness
  • Loss of faith
  • Substance abuse
  • Inability to maintain close relationships
  • Reclusion
  • Paranoia

The most important message is that the road to recovery is certainly possible for anyone who is struggling.

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3 comments

  1. Thank you for this article I can relate to it but there is help out there how to cope on a daily basis I know it’s very hard but you have to pull through it and with support of family and friends

  2. Very powerful article

  3. Thank you for this great informative article on thw process to healing. Its something i really needed to read.

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