When bad things happen, it’s up to us to decide what happens next. Experiencing a traumatic event can drastically affect how a person interacts and views the world around them. What’s more, new studies assert that horrific events can have a lasting impact for generations to come. Is it possible to learn how to deal with trauma independently? Research indicates that individuals may be better equipped to address deep-seated trauma to improve mental health with self-help strategies and supportive care.
In some, trauma can lead to mental health issues such as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, alcohol, and drug abuse, as well as impact relationships both personally and professionally. It’s important to know that resources are available to help individuals and families deal with emotional, physical, or other types of trauma. You don’t have to face these obstacles alone.
Contact us today for information on our online addiction treatment and trauma-informed care programs.
Symptoms of Trauma
Factors influencing the outcome after a traumatic event depends on personal history and coping methods evolved from experience. A person’s emotions can also vary in severity. For example, one individual may have a higher propensity to react with strong emotions and reckless behavior. Another person facing similar circumstances may withdraw altogether. Learning how to deal with trauma healthily means acquiring tools that can address various everyday triggers.
Trauma treatment focuses on one specific objective: helping a person continue necessary daily activities like regulating emotions, sustaining self-esteem, and maintaining and enjoying healthy relationships.
In some cases, people are able to maintain normal functions without outside help. If not dealt with, trauma can negatively impact a person’s health and wellness. According to Medical News Today, these are some common signs of underlying trauma, ranging from mild to severe, including:
- Anger, irritability, and mood swings
- Confusion or difficulties concentrating
- Denial, disbelief, or shock
- Depression or feelings of hopelessness or sadness
- Feeling disconnected or numb
- Guilt, shame, and self-blame
- Withdrawing from others
Physical symptoms can include:
- Nightmares, insomnia, or sleep disorders
- Being startled easily
- Edginess and agitation
- Aches and pains
- Racing heartbeat
Trauma symptoms are known to last for a few days to a few months and may gradually fade when a person begins to process a perilous experience successfully. Unfortunately, for many Americans, symptoms do not disappear, and many are forced to find alternative methods to deal with trauma. Far too many turn toward alcohol and drugs in desperation to treat underlying trauma.
Healing: How to Deal with Trauma
The good news is there are proven strategies that can help individuals heal from emotional upheaval either independently or with therapy. Learning how to deal with trauma can help you take back control and stand firm even against bad moments.
1. Focus on Physical Health
Exercise is vital for your head, just as it is critical for your heart. Regular aerobic exercise can bring remarkable, positive changes to the body, metabolism, heart, and mental health. According to an article in Harvard Health, activity is also an all-natural treatment that has a “unique capacity to exhilarate and relax, to provide stimulation and calm, to counter depression and dissipate stress.”
The brain is a remarkable organ. It can more effectively rebuild and regenerate portions of the brain that may be severely impacted by high amounts of stress due to trauma through regular exercise. Other benefits of exercise on mental health include:
- Sharpen memory and cognitive function
- Higher self-esteem
- Promote better sleep
- Create more energy
- Help build resilience in difficult situations
2. Avoiding Isolation
Understanding how to deal with trauma lies in recognizing the triggers that can cause elevated stress levels, consequently leading to additional mental health concerns. While it seems easier to disengage and disassociate after experiencing trauma, leading psychologists actually encourage more social interaction. Displaying reclusive behavior is not uncommon among trauma victims. However, extended periods of isolation can transform the brain. A study published in Science Daily asserts that a particular neural chemical is over-produced during long periods of isolation, causing increased aggression and fear.
Maintaining relationships and avoiding spending too much time alone can help improve the process of healing from trauma. During and after traumatic events, we need other people for support and social ties. These factors have been shown to measurably lessen the effects of trauma, allow us to grieve, work through adversity, and create and offer support to others. Here are some tips on how to deal with trauma by avoiding isolation:
- Ask for support
- Participate in social activities
- Join a support group
3. Avoid Self-Medicating
It’s a natural inclination to seek relief from emotional and physical trauma. Self-medicating with alcohol, prescription medicines, or illicit drugs is not uncommon. According to the National Institute of Health, traumatic events and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have been directly linked with substance use disorders (SUD). More specifically, trauma exposure increases the risk of a person developing an SUD. The co-occurrence of trauma and addiction is known as a dual diagnosis.
According to a National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), about 45% of Americans struggle with a dual diagnosis. Traumatic events can even trigger or kickstart an addiction or a mental disorder.
It’s essential to avoid self-medicating, especially directly following trauma. Instead, addiction specialists recommend:
- Avoid alcohol and drugs as they can worsen trauma symptoms
- Reduce stress with relaxation techniques and therapy
- Focus on health and mental wellness
4. Validate Your Experience
All too often, a person may feel ashamed or guilty that they cannot cope with the aftermath of trauma. They may diminish their feelings in response, leading to self-sabotage. This cycle helps a person redirect high amounts of emotions caused by anxiety, depression, fear, and stress, but not always in a productive manner. Ignoring devastating life circumstances can do more harm. An essential piece of healing, in fact, is validating your emotions. What you felt is hurtful and real, and it absolutely matters. What you’re going through is a normal response to abnormal experiences.
Furthermore, learning how to deal with trauma is not a simple, overnight process. It takes time to uncover the depths of despair and rebuild the skills needed to overcome heavy thoughts and feelings. Practicing mindfulness may help validate your experience. Here are some helpful tips:
- Use a journal to help put thoughts and feelings into words
- Recognize when you’re judging yourself
- Develop a habit of asking yourself what you need
Practicing these simple techniques can help manage traumatic stress and provide a pathway to recovery.
What is Trauma?
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), trauma is the brain’s emotional response to a stressful event like an accident, a sudden death, rape, or natural disaster.
While trauma is a familiar term used in everyday life, it is commonly misused. Inaccurate information has circulated quickly, leading many to misunderstanding how trauma works and how it can impact a person’s short- and long-term health. Knowing how to deal with trauma begins with understanding brain functionality or, more specifically, the brain’s response to certain types of “life-changing” events.
The human brain incorporates approximately 100 billion neurons working together to form its complex network. These networks are designed to carry out duties that keep us alive, conscious, functioning, and performing. Brain science examines different aspects of the brain and its corresponding responsibilities, like how a trauma mind may alter structure and development.
According to a study published in the National Institute of Health, brain areas implicated in the stress response include the amygdala, hippocampus, and prefrontal cortex. These areas of the brain are important as they correspond with certain behaviors and emotions often present among those suffering from trauma.
Traumatic Stress: Effects on the Brain
It’s the body that often feels the impact of trauma first and foremost. But what’s going on in a traumatized brain? When we experience or even view a threatening life event, and they can trigger a natural fight, flight, or freeze response. Sometimes, these natural defense mechanisms our brain sets into motion can have lasting effects. In learning how to deal with trauma, brain studies reveal that two chemical reactions take place, including:
- Excretion of cortisol
- Release of high levels of adrenaline
Increasing cortisol levels show a direct correlation with the number of psychosocial factors, major depression, stress, and dysfunction of emotion regulation. In short, the chemical reactions that occur in the brain during a traumatic event can contribute to other behavioral and mental health issues later.
Trauma & Developing Minds
Traumatic stressors such as early trauma can lead to posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which impacts about 8% of Americans, as well as other comorbid conditions like depression and substance abuse.
A normal human brain undergoes numerous changes in function and structure over the lifespan of an individual. Therefore, trauma at different stages in life will presumably have other effects on the brain. Adolescents are at far greater risk of prolonged issues than those who experience trauma later in life. Understanding how to deal with trauma will depend on a number of factors including age.
Emotional & Psychological Trauma
Many believe that traumatic events are triggered by a direct threat to life or safety. However, this is a common myth debunked by notable neuroscientists and psychologists. The general consensus in the medical community is that, in addition to life threats, trauma can also result from any situation that leaves a person feeling overwhelmed and isolated. Furthermore, emotional and psychological trauma can be caused by:
- One-time events such as accidents or violent attacks
- Ongoing and relentless stress that can coincide with bullying, childhood abuse or neglect, an unexpected illness, and even poverty
- Other events that can cause trauma include the death of a loved one, a breakup from a meaningful relationship, natural disasters, and experiencing emotional, physical, or verbal abuse
Learning to deal with trauma involves coping with distressing events or learning how to function or offset trauma-induced emotions and fears.
AspenRidge REACH: Online Dual Diagnosis Recovery
One in four Americans will struggle with mental health at some point in their lives. These struggles often evolve from trauma-based experiences. Unsure of how to deal with anxiety, depression, the stress in the aftermath of a trauma, a person is likely to turn to alternative forms of coping such as drug abuse.
Addiction is common among those who have experienced trauma at some point in their lives. It frequently occurs enough that many treatment centers provide dual diagnosis care to address substance abuse and underlying trauma together. AspenRidge REACH is one of the first to offer dual diagnosis support via telehealth or online recovery.
Ongoing substance use can elicit stronger feelings of trauma-derived emotions, which can trigger more severe mental health concerns. It’s essential to understand when outside help is needed. Our programs provide flexibility and assistance with learning how to deal with trauma in a healthy way. We promote a comprehensive, tailored program designed to address a person’s unique needs. For more information on our online addiction and therapy support services, contact us directly at 720-650-8055.