When you think about the signs of trauma, what do you imagine? Most people will think of someone curled up in a ball, alone, in a dark room, but that is more of a stereotype than reality. There are many signs and symptoms of trauma that are more subtle and you can be struggling with the effects of trauma without even realizing they are occurring. Because trauma can occur anytime our experience overwhelms our ability to cope you may even notice something is off but associate a trauma symptom with some other problem.
Some outwardly obvious signs of trauma can include having flashbacks to the traumatic event, nightmares/sleep problems, numbing or dissociating, feeling depressed or anxious, substance abuse, withdrawal/isolation, and confusion or guilt. More subtle signs of trauma can include procrastination, trouble focusing or “brain fog”, an intense fear of failure, trouble asking for help, a need to plan for everything, and fear of success.
If you think you may be experiencing trauma or having signs of trauma there are options for help. It may be helpful or necessary for you to seek professional help in the form of a counselor, therapist, or psychologist. At home it may be helpful to move your body. Exercise helps to burn off the built up adrenaline and release endorphins. Aim for 30 minutes of exercise on most days. You might also benefit from connecting with others. You don’t have to talk about your trauma during this connection for it to be useful. Feeling engaged and accepted by others can help ease trauma symptoms. Another option is trying mindfulness coping skills like mindful breathing or naming 5 things you can feel, touch, smell, and see. Staying grounded in this way can help you remain in the here and now.
If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts or feeling overwhelmed by thoughts of not wanting to live please get help now by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
Experiencing trauma, recognizing the signs of trauma, and learning how to cope with trauma’s aftereffects can be difficult but hope and help is out there.
Written by Jessica Wallace, Manager of Learning & Development at the Arc of Monroe.