Understanding trauma symptoms and how to recover
Why do some people suffer from trauma symptoms years after the event? And how can they recover from trauma permanently? These are some of the most common questions that arise about trauma today.
But before we go on, let’s ask ourselves one question:
What is trauma?
We sometimes go through distressing or disturbing experiences, whether they be related to crime, abuse, unemployment, sickness, violence, etc.
Trauma is our response to such experiences, which can leave us feeling overwhelmed, even if it doesn't involve physical harm.
Traumatic stress can occur after a significant experience that is out of the ordinary or when people consider them to be 'abnormal' compared to their expectations and beliefs. It affects our ability to cope and can cause feelings of helplessness.
How are traumatic memories formed?
Now, as you’ll probably know, the brain is quite a complex organ. But traumatic memories are, essentially, ones that have not been fully processed.
But why aren’t traumatic memories fully processed?
Well, we can thank the amygdala for that.
Think about your amygdala (or amygdalae – as you have two). Think about them as your body’s in-built security guards.
Now, with normal everyday experiences, the amygdala is a bit of a blabbermouth. It usually tells the neighbouring hippocampus everything. The hippocampus processes everything the amygdala tells it. It then makes sense of it all by piecing together what happened, and files it away as a past memory. Pretty efficient, right?
But when we’re faced with a traumatic situation, the amygdala takes over. It puts the rest of the brain on standby, stops communicating with the hippocampus and deals with the whole experience itself.
The amygdala controls our instant reaction to traumatic experiences. It absorbs the strong and instinctive emotions we feel, such as anger, fear, panic, anxiety, etc. This helps it make a decision on how to protect us, and how we immediately act (one of the four Fs): Fight, Flight, Freeze or Faint.
So, hats off to the amygdala for keeping us safe!
But there’s only one problem: those strong emotions often have nowhere to go. The amygdala cut the hippocampus out, so the memories couldn’t be filed away into the past.
What happens to these unpleasant emotions? Well, they hang around in our subconscious mind as suppressed or repressed memories. They linger, waiting to resurface again when triggered in the future, as soon as something reminds us of that past traumatic experience.
So there you have it. These trauma symptoms can reappear, without warning, and seriously complicate our lives for years to come.
What are the different types of trauma symptoms?
One of the most well-known diagnoses of trauma symptoms is PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). We associate this, in particular, to war veterans, who suffer from their horrific experiences long after they’ve returned home.
But PTSD can be caused by a whole range of traumatic experiences from rape, abuse, terrorism, accidents, violent crime: the list goes on. Symptoms can include:
- Flashbacks, nightmares and physical sensations such as pain, feeling sick, numbness or trembling.
- Trying to numb the feelings, avoiding people or places, using drugs or alcohol to avoid recollection, or to distract ourselves.
- Feeling on edge, irritability, anger, difficulty concentrating, insomnia, panic or recklessness.
- Depression, anxiety or phobias.
- Self-harm and substance abuse.
- Headaches, dizziness, chest pains and stomach aches.
As a result, this can lead to other problems, such as:
How can trauma symptoms be triggered in the future?
Let’s look at an example of how a traumatic experience can be triggered later on:
Michael was walking down the high street one evening. He was just passing an Indian restaurant when a car suddenly mounted the pavement and crashed into a lampost. Unfortunately, another pedestrian was killed in the collision, right before Michael’s eyes.
The noise of crunching metal was deafening, the scene was horrific, and he felt helpless. There was nothing he could do to help. He tried to pull the woman from the wreckage, but it was too late.
Since the accident, Michael has had several episodes of anxiety and the feeling of helplessness when smelling Indian food. It was one of his favourites, but he can’t bring himself to eat it anymore, nor walk past an Indian restaurant without feeling anxious, stressed and panicked.
These feelings are sometimes so overwhelming that he calls in sick, cancels his social arrangements or just stays in bed. His girlfriend got tired of it and broke off the relationship. This has made him more depressed, and he is reluctant to try and meet someone new for fear of the same thing happening again.
So as you can see, Michael is still suffering trauma symptoms, and they are having a devastating effect on his life. He still doesn’t really understand or remember what Indian food has got to do with it. This is suppressed in his memory, but it can come back to haunt him without warning. He needs help.
How can we help people recover from trauma symptoms?
There are several forms of trauma therapy and counselling available, such a Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Prolonged Exposure Therapy, or medication, including anti-depressants, for example.
In general, these methods try to treat the symptoms, analyse or interpret the sufferer’s feeling and advise them on how they should change their behaviour.
They may help for a short while, but the negative emotions usually come back when triggered again.
Why? Because those incomplete traumatic memories are still roaming around in the subconscious mind. They need to be filed away into the past.
How can we help people process incomplete traumatic memories?
Bounce Trauma Resolution is a technique that empowers the sufferer to process and complete these traumatic memories, putting them away into the past where they belong.
We help trauma sufferers get to the root, analyse it and eliminate it. We call it integrative learning.
At Bounce, we don’t offer therapy. We won’t judge you. We won’t prescribe medication or other means of masking the symptoms.
We guide trauma victims through a structured communication process, enabling them to piece together their memories and process them for good.
How quick and effective can Trauma Resolution resolve trauma symptoms?
You won’t need endless weekly sessions to move on to a happier life. Our sessions are not time-limited, and we’ll continue until the sufferer is satisfied that their feelings have been resolved.
This can take under an hour; several hours; or perhaps longer: maybe up to a week. Every individual is different, and it depends on whether there is just one, or perhaps several underlying experiences to be addressed.
If you’re interested in resolving traumatic experiences, click here for more information: https://www.bounceuk.org/1-2-1-trauma-support.html
How can you help others recover from trauma symptoms?
The number of people suffering from trauma symptoms is multiplying, especially in light of COVID-19. Many people’s symptoms have worsened during the lockdown, countless people are losing their incomes or even their loved ones.
We want to try to help as many people as we can. That’s why we’ve recently made our Bounce Trauma Resolution course available online. Anyone, from anywhere in the world, can now gain these invaluable skills to empower others to recover from trauma.
You don’t need a degree or previous experience in mental healthcare. But for those who already work with trauma victims, Trauma Resolution is the missing skill in your toolbox.
Help people recover from trauma more effectively and fast. Find out more about the Bounce online Trauma Resolution training here: https://theacademy.bounceuk.org/courses/trauma-res...