Everyone experiences trauma differently. For some, it may be a single traumatic event that leaves them feeling isolated or helpless. For others, it may be ongoing exposure to stressful events such as war, abuse, or natural disasters.
Regardless of the type of experience you’re dealing with, being exposed to trauma has lasting effects that can hurt your life and relationships. Trauma can be an extremely challenging experience for anyone to go through. It isn’t easy to witness or experience something like this and as a result of this, it can leave you feeling scared and anxious for quite some time afterward. Some people can cope with their trauma much better than others but what exactly is ‘trauma’ and how can we help those who are struggling? Let’s take a look…
What is Trauma?
Simply put, trauma occurs when someone experiences a shocking, scary, or dangerous event that leaves a lasting negative impact on their mental health. There’s no one standard situation that can cause trauma, and it can happen to anyone regardless of age, gender, or background. The person’s reaction to the event will vary greatly depending on things like the person’s resilience, the severity of the situation, and the support system.
There are several negative impacts that can occur as a result of being exposed to trauma. These may include extreme feelings of stress, anxiety, irritability, and mood swings. It can also be difficult to concentrate and make decisions and it can be easy to become withdrawn due to being overwhelmed by negative emotions.
Why Is It So Hard to Cope With Trauma?
Many factors may make it more challenging to cope with trauma such as how young or old you were when you experienced it, what type of trauma it was, and how you responded to it at the time. It can be extremely difficult to deal with trauma because it is a very personal and private experience that can leave you feeling isolated and alone. Depending on the type of trauma you experienced, it can be hard to find people who truly understand what you’re going through.
For example, if you experienced a car accident as a child, it’s hard for you to relate to a friend who was diagnosed with cancer at a young age. It’s also normal to feel shame or guilt about the situation you were in, which can make you less likely to share it with others.
Other Types of Trauma
- Childhood trauma – Some types of childhood trauma include neglect, abuse (emotional, physical, or sexual), being placed in foster care, divorce, and the death of a loved one. While these types of experiences can be challenging for any child, they may be even more difficult to cope with if they are experiencing a chronic level of distress.
- Combat trauma – This type of trauma can happen to both military personnel and civilians who are caught up in war. This can take many forms, including being in a car accident, being shot at, or seeing someone injured or killed.
- Natural disasters – While many people associate trauma with being the victim of a crime or accident, natural disasters can also create a lot of stress. For example, people who live through hurricanes can experience this type of trauma.
7 Signs Someone May Be Struggling With Trauma
- Mood changes: It’s normal to experience a wide range of emotions when coping with trauma, but changes in mood that persist over time may be a sign that you’re struggling with trauma.
- Difficulty sleeping: If you find yourself having trouble sleeping because of troubling thoughts or nightmares, it could be a sign that you’re struggling with trauma.
- Feeling detached: If you feel disconnected or out of balance, you may be struggling with trauma.
- Excessive fear: If you’re afraid of things that you shouldn’t be, such as spiders, sharp noises, or public places, it could be a sign that you’re struggling with trauma.
- Increased irritability: Trauma can make you more sensitive to others’ actions and words. If you notice that you’re more irritable than usual, it could be a sign you’re struggling with trauma.
- Self-harm: If you’re experiencing a lot of anxiety, it’s easy to make impulsive decisions. For example, you may engage in self-harm such as cutting or burning to release your emotions.
- Substance abuse: Substance abuse is another impulsive way people cope with trauma. Most commonly, people use alcohol or drugs to numb their feelings.
3 Ways To Help Someone With Trauma
- Ask them how you can help – One of the best things you can do for someone with trauma is ask how you can help. This shows that you genuinely care about them and want to assist in any way you can.
- Be patient and non-judgmental – It may take some time for the person to open up to you once you start to notice that they’re struggling. Be patient and non-judgmental so that they know you’re willing to listen whenever they’re ready to talk.
- Offer your support – The person will likely need support in many ways, so be open to offering your support in any way you can.
It’s important to remember that everyone experiences trauma differently, and it may take some time before someone can open up and talk about their experience. If you’re concerned that someone you know is struggling with trauma, it’s best to be patient and non-judgmental while letting them know that you’re there to support them.
It’s also important to know that there are many different ways to help someone who is struggling with trauma. You can offer your support, let them know that you are there for them, and ask them how you can help.