People nowadays seem to use the word trauma or traumatized in casual conversation referring to a moment or situation that either startled them or freaked them out!
You would typically hear the phrase, “Oh my god, I think I will be traumatized for life!”
The word, however, is often misused or used too casually to describe a situation that doesn’t really reflect the real meaning of the word.
Trauma or being traumatized by an unpleasant event can be a big deal to some people. It can impact you personally as well as psychologically for years if not a lifetime.
But not all traumas are created equal and not all traumatic events will leave you traumatized for life.
So, what is trauma? And what exactly does it mean to experience a traumatizing event?
Let’s talk about that…
What Is Trauma?
Trauma is usually thought of as a time that can be frightening, stressful, or shocking to ones experience. However, those are very broad and misunderstood definitions.
There are three distinct definitions for describing “trauma”. We’ll start with the definition from a pure psychological perspective and take a look at the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Fifth Edition (DSM-5).
Types of trauma and their definition:
Defining trauma #1:
In the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual) “Trauma” is defined as the traumatic events that involve a person’s life being threatened or witnessing a loved one in the same situation. In most cases, these events are usually sudden and unexpected.
They can trigger your brain’s fight or flight response and create feelings of extreme panic in which you would fear for your or a loved one’s life.
These are the types often result in post traumatic stress disorders (PTSD).
Interesting Fact: Are You Traumatized?
Maybe not exactly a “fun” fact, however, there is something interesting to note here so read up!
Think about this for a minute…,
Have you been traumatized before? It’s highly likely you have.
A study conducted on over 68,000 respondents that appeared to face a life-threatening event were surveyed. Researchers found that 70.4% of the respondents had experienced at least one life-threatening trauma.
How is this possible?
Statistically speaking if you were to take into account a person’s full potential lifetime, you can experience a life-threatening event that can happen to you or a loved at least one time.
That’s nuts! Take care of yourself…
Defining trauma #2: (What does being traumatized mean?)
Traumatizing events don’t all have to be life-threatening. Sometimes, trama can include things like psychological/emotional abuse, bullying, and divorce.
Even having a dramatic life change that you didn’t want or expect to have such as, dropping everything you’ve built and starting over can also constitute as a traumatizing event.
These types of traumas tend to affect a person’s emotional wellbeing, but don’t necessarily lead to post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
It’s important to note that, you shouldn’t belittle the use of the word “traumatized” simply because you or someone you know experienced some kind of traumatic event.
To hold the meaning true, traumatized usually refers to being affected by the event itself and being permanently injured from a dangerous or life threatening situation.
Usually, after such traumatizing events, you could result in emotional or behavioral problems.
What Are The Symptoms Of Trauma?
When it comes to traumatic events there is no “right” or “wrong” way to feel or react. Your reactions come from your brain’s fight or flight response to protect you from such situations.
In fact, if you did react completely normal the same way you behave in a casual hangout with friends or how you are when you are alone — calm and chill — that would be a tad odd.
What is considered trauma?
Peoples’ psychological reactions usually vary from one person to another. Therefore, it’s important to know what to look for if you suspect that someone you care for may be living with trauma.
There are a handful of common things you can learn to spot. From changes in their behavior, physical well-being, thinking patterns, a sudden shift in spiritual beliefs, and personal and social interactions.
Some of these signs, symptoms, and reactions can include:
- Apathy or displaying a lack of emotions
- Sleeping disorders or having lack of sleep or even nightmares
- Suddenly becoming forgetful
- Being in denial or disbelief
- Becoming obsessive
- Anger, moodiness, and irritability
- Increased use of alcohol
- Isolation from people
- Sudden disinterest in previous activities
- Questioning faith, religion or themselves
Healing From A Traumatizing Event (3 things to keep in mind)
Trauma symptoms typically last from a few days to a few months.
But even after you’ve processed things and began to move on, you may run into a memory that can surprise trigger you in an emotional way and bring you back to that traumatic event in your mind and sometimes even your body.
For example, if you were part of a traumatic and lost someone you know, your mind and body will begin a natural process of coping with the situation in order to protect you and keep your mind safe.
A natural reaction to this loss typically make a person go through a grieving process.
If you’re dealing with any trauma, you’ll need to know how to heal yourself and move on with your life. The good news is, you can heal from trauma.
Here are 3 tips to keep in mind:
- Get moving
Being traumatized usually floods your mind and body’s natural chemical and nervous system balance.
So even if you don’t feel like it, find whatever motivation you need to get moving. Exercise, take regular walks, swim, literally anything helps, just don’t get into the couch potato state.
Keeping yourself active helps the release of your body’s natural endorphins and moving can also aid in repairing your nervous system.
Try to exercise for 30 minutes or more on most days.
Practice mindfulness meditation
A daily mindfulness meditation practice has been proven to bring many positive benefits for your mind and body.
Being in a state of awareness and acceptance creates strong connections in your brain that help you move beyond the constant fear and avoidance that comes from trauma.
Don’t isolate yourself
After a traumatic experience, being social is important. However, the point of this is not to distract yourself, that is not what we mean in this context. Connecting to others face to face helps you heal.
So what should you do? It can feel excruciating in the beginning we know. But even if you’re not feeling it, take the initiative to participate in positive social activities. Be around the people that you’ve formed close relationships with like friends, family, or a partner.
You should also be mindful of yourself in the process and observe if you are in a good or bad state of mind. If you find yourself or thoughts drifting to negative places when you are isolated, then simply avoid spending too much time alone.
Also, keep in mind that connecting with others doesn’t mean that you have to be talking about what happened and keep reminding yourself about the trauma. In fact, for some people, that can just make things worse.
Your goal in such a situation is to be with the right individual(s) where you can be comfortable to show your true self without hiding. This way you get to experience the positive side being around people, and have a true heart to heart and accepting connection with one another.
Lastly, keep in mind that trauma is something that can deeply affect someone’s life, but it’s not necessarily the end of the road.
For anyone that’s been traumatized, they can take practical steps to take care of their health and wellness and face any traumatizing experience by being mindful fo themselves and having a good support network of friends.
After all, good friends are there in good times and in the not so good times. That’s what makes them friends.
What methods do you know of that can help in coping or healing from a traumatizing experience? Share your thoughts with us in the comment section below.