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  • Writer's pictureTracy Haynes

A Deeper Look into Trauma and PTSD

Updated: Jun 8, 2023

When the world shatters around us, the weight of trauma can leave a lasting impact on our souls. The Cambridge Dictionary captures the essence of trauma as a "severe and lasting emotional shock and pain caused by an extremely upsetting experience." It is a powerful force that can linger long after the triggering event has passed.

Trauma can sneak into our lives in various forms, from the acute, singular shock of a car accident to the relentless, prolonged suffering of domestic violence or the intricate web of a complex trauma like sexual abuse. It is vital to recognize that trauma is subjective, not confined to specific events but rooted in the emotional responses that individuals experience. Every person's reaction to a traumatic event is unique and no one should feel invalidated in their pain.

Often, people question the legitimacy of their trauma, wondering if their experiences warrant such a response. They may not have been in a war zone or experienced assault, but their emotions are valid nonetheless. Trauma can be traced back to a single event, or it can be buried deep within the complexity of an individual's past.

Childhood experiences, even those seemingly innocuous, can leave a person feeling unsafe and vulnerable, shaping how they react to trauma in adulthood. An unexpected death of a loved one or the serious illness of a sibling can result in a child feeling neglected or abandoned, leading to unresolved issues that manifest as triggers later in life.

A trauma trigger is a potent reminder of the pain and fear experienced during a traumatic event. It can be a sight, a sound, a scent, a taste, or a touch that catapults someone back into the vivid memories of their trauma. These triggers can evoke the same raw, primary emotions—fear, helplessness, horror, anger, and shame—that were felt during the traumatic experience itself.

When a trigger is activated, it can be utterly overwhelming, sending a person into a state of panic or causing them to react as if they are in imminent danger. Identifying and understanding these triggers is crucial for healing, as long-term avoidance can lead to the debilitating effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

PTSD is a harrowing mental health condition that can develop after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event. PTSD can cast a shadow over a person's life, affecting an estimated 1 in 10 people at some point. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) provides criteria for diagnosing PTSD, emphasizing the core features of reexperiencing, avoidance behaviours, numbing of responsivity, and hyperarousal.

PTSD is a normal reaction to an abnormal situation, often described as a "normal response by normal people to an overwhelming event."

The road to healing from PTSD is a deeply personal journey and no single approach to treatment can provide solace to every individual. It is essential to consider each person's unique experiences, such as trauma history, social support, culture and beliefs to gain a holistic understanding of their pain and the path towards healing.

Trauma can shake the very foundations of our beliefs, leaving us questioning our place in the world and the safety we once took for granted. PTSD is a stark reminder that life can be unpredictable and unmanageable, making trust a fragile and precious commodity.

With understanding, compassion, and support, healing is possible, allowing us to reclaim our lives and find peace after the storm.

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