There are certain words that get thrown around carelessly. “Triggers” is absolutely one of those. We hear people say, “I felt so triggered by xyz…” and yes, maybe they did feel that way. However, using this word to describe any situation that you don’t feel okay with is undermining the very real experience that others have. We’re talking about trauma here.
Trauma, or post-traumatic stress disorder, is a very real mental health condition. It is characterized by intense feelings, thoughts, and physical symptoms. And, yes, triggers. Let’s dive into the topic of trauma.
What Is Trauma?
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is most commonly thought about in terms of soldiers, veterans, or sexual assault survivors. What might be surprising for many to hear is that trauma can happen to anyone for any reason.
Some of the most common situations that can cause PTSD symptoms are:
- Domestic, sexual, or emotional abuse
- Childhood neglect
- A car accident
- Death of a loved one
- Loss of a pet
- Witnessing a crime
- Being a victim of a crime
- Racial injustices
Singular events such as a car accident or witnessing a crime are acute traumatic experiences. On the other hand are complex traumatic experiences, or C-PTSD. C-PTSD occurs as a result of trauma repeating itself, such as in the case of abuse.
Not every person will respond to trauma in the same way. While the following is a list of the most common symptoms of PTSD, they do not mean that every single person will experience all of them. Some common PTSD symptoms are:
- Avoidance of any similar person, place, or event similar to that of the traumatic experience
- Changes in eating habits (eating too much or not enough)
- Memory issues
- Concentration issues
- Stomach aches
Additionally, many people will grapple with feelings of shame and guilt after a traumatic experience. Even though these situations are completely out of a person’s control, they still blame themselves.
How To Heal From Trauma
Recognize the Signs
One of the first steps to heal from trauma is to know what the signs are. Maybe a few years ago, you went through something traumatizing and didn’t realize that it impacted you profoundly. Months later, you might find yourself unable to sleep or feeling on edge constantly; you just can’t figure out why.
Write down the symptoms you are experiencing, even if they seem insignificant. This can help you and a licensed professional determine if you are experiencing symptoms because of the trauma or if there is another medical explanation.
Don’t Push It Away
If you don’t want to deal with something, you choose not to think about it, right? In theory, this might seem helpful, but it’s actually maladaptive. One thing to know about trauma is that your body remembers it. Ignoring the traumatic experience or pretending it didn’t happen doesn’t help you when your brain keeps the memory of it hidden away deep within your mind.
Trauma survivors will often withdraw away from other people after their painful experiences. They don’t want to talk to anyone about it for fear of not being understood. What’s worse is the idea that they might be seen as overreacting and belittled for it.
It doesn’t matter if it was something huge or something small that happened to you. If it was traumatizing to you, then that is all that counts. It also doesn’t matter if trauma happened last week, last year, or three years ago. Healing is possible.