Trauma occurs when an accident, abuse, loss or something unpredictable causes us to feel emotions such as intense fear, shock, denial and distress. For the most part, people might have trauma reactions such as nightmares, hypervigilance or physical symptoms after a tragic or dangerous event that heals by itself after a short period. However, depending on the intensity and duration of the trauma, people might need to reach out to a trained mental health professional to recover and get back on track. Here are some concepts to help you understand trauma for yourself and your loved ones.
1. The mind-body connection
Our mind is connected to our body, and there is a constant feedback loop between the two. During an accident or traumatic event, our system goes into fight or flight for protection. If our body is in fight or flight for too long, our mind becomes distressed and hypervigilant. Our immune system and the nervous system might also be affected, and we might experience physical symptoms. After a trauma, it is essential to find ways to relax so that our mind and our body can get back to normal. If you are having difficulty sleeping or focusing at work, a mental health professional can help you.
2. Avoidance or seeking
Often after a trauma, we want to avoid the person, place or situation that caused the trauma. This may or may not be in your favour. Reflect on the situation and ask yourself if avoiding it will raise or lower your quality of life. If avoiding will reduce your quality of life, but you can’t go back to the situation, seek a professional. Those who do not avoid might tend to seek out the situation, person or place that caused the trauma to relive and figure out the situation. Just like avoiding, this can be dangerous or helpful. If seeking out the situation is dangerous and finds yourself doing it, reach out and seek help.
3. Not everyone wants to talk about it
Everyone copes with trauma and loss differently. If someone is not ready to talk about it or seek help, do not push them. This might be doing more harm than good because it might interfere with the person’s natural coping system.
You might want to withdraw from your partner, friends, and social events. This is to help you to find the stability you perceived lost. This might affect your relationships negatively if you do not communicate what you need and what you are feeling.
5. Express and release
Express and release the trauma through art, music, dancing, sports or writing. This can help to release the trauma’s powerful hold on you. A professional can also help by listening with empathy and no judgement.
6. When to seek help
You can seek help at any point after a trauma. However, if your relationships or quality of life is suffering, reach out as soon as possible. Some symptoms to pay special attention to are constant agitation, hypervigilance, strained relationships, flashbacks, nightmares and physical symptoms such as tension, pressure in the chest, chronic pain, stomach and headaches.
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Although I am a registered clinical psychologist with the Hong Kong Society of Counseling and Psychology, I am not a licensed psychologist or any other type of licensed therapist in the United States. The information I am providing here is educational and informational. This social media page does not provide professional advice, nor does it create a professional-client relationship or any other type of relationship between us. You should always consult your own licensed mental health professional before making any changes regarding your mental health. My goal is to educate, guide, consult, and empower you regarding your mental health journey. Always consult your licensed mental healthcare provider(s) and never disregard or delay medical advice based on information posted on this page or post.