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Dealing with Personal Trauma

By KSU Counseling Services Staff

People who have lived through trauma may experience residual effects of that trauma. These effects—emotional and physiological—may be so serious as to interfere with regular life.

Types of Traumatic Experiences

What is considered traumatizing to one person may not be distressing to another. Typical challenges that people have faced that have been traumatizing include various experiences: emotional or physical neglect; sexual abuse; war experiences; emotional outbursts; alcoholism; physical illness; family sicknesses; automotive accidents; natural disasters, and the losses of close family and friends. Trauma may stem from one experience, multiple experiences, or from prolonged stress. Symptoms of post-trauma stresses may emerge shortly after the traumatic incident or incidents or may show up months or even years later.

Some Effects of Unaddressed Trauma

These symptoms manifest in different ways. There may be flashbacks to the traumatic event. Others may experience depression, anxiety attacks, insomnia, rage, or phobias (unusual fears). People may experience delusions and not engage with the reality of their situations. Others may feel disconnected from friends or family members. They may experience eating problems or disorders. They may have a hard time concentrating. They may have a hard time trusting other people. They may feel unlikeable. They may overwork. They may ingest harmful substances in order to “escape” their difficult feelings.

Recent research suggests that those who suffer severe post-traumatic stress may have lacked sufficient emotional or mental resilience, or they may have had some prior vulnerabilities to the pressures of stresses—in terms of health or other challenges. They also suggest that some traumas are too overwhelming for people to handle, no matter what their level of prior resilience.

Care

Talking about the past trauma with trusted individuals may help relieve some of the psychological pressures. There are relaxation exercises (meditations, listening to music) or physical exercises that may be done to relieve some of the pressures as well. Journaling about the event may also be cathartic.

People whose regular lives are affected by the effects of trauma may find it beneficial to get professional care. Optimally, the care may provide those with post-traumatic stresses with resources and methods to ease the symptoms of the former trauma and to enhance the quality of life overall.

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Dealing with Personal Trauma (pdf)