>> Emotional And Psychological Trauma
EMOTIONAL AND PSYCHOLOGICAL TRAUMA
If you’ve gone through a traumatic experience,
you may be struggling with painful emotions, frightening
memories, or a sense of constant danger that you just
can’t kick. Or you may feel numb, disconnected,
and unable to trust other people. But you can overcome
trauma’s paralyzing hold on your present life.
With treatment and support, you can heal and move
on from psychological and emotional trauma, putting
it in the past where it belongs.
WHAT IS EMOTIONAL OR PSYCHOLOGICAL
Trauma is the result of extraordinarily stressful
events that shatter your sense of security, making
you feel helpless and vulnerable in a dangerous world.
Traumatic experiences often involve a threat to life
or safety, but any situation that leaves you feeling
frightened and alone can be traumatic, even if it
doesn’t involve physical harm. Experiences involving
betrayal, verbal abuse, or any major loss can be just
as traumatizing as a life-threatening catastrophe,
especially when they happen during childhood.
Whether the threat is physical or psychological, trauma
results when an experience is so overwhelming that
you freeze, go numb, or disconnect from what’s
happening. While this automatic response protects
you from the terror you feel, it also prevents you
from moving on. Despite being cut off from your trauma-related
feelings, you can’t escape them completely.
They remain outside of conscious awareness in all
their original intensity, influencing the way you
see the world, react to everyday situations, and relate
CAUSES OF EMOTIONAL OR PSYCHOLOGICAL
Not all potentially traumatic events lead to lasting
emotional and psychological trauma. Some people rebound
quickly from even the most tragic and shocking experiences.
Others are devastated by experiences that, on the
surface, appear to be less upsetting. It’s not
the objective facts that determine whether an event
is traumatic, but your subjective emotional experience
of the event. The more endangered, helpless, and unprepared
you feel, the more likely you are to be traumatized.
The types of events that can cause trauma are numerous.
Emotional trauma can be caused by single-blow, one-time
occurrences, such as a house fire, a plane crash,
a violent crime, or an earthquake. Psychological and
emotional trauma can also be caused by experiences
of ongoing and relentless stress, such as fighting
in a war, living in a crime-ridden neighborhood, enduring
chronic abuse, or struggling with a life-threatening
Though, people respond differently to stressful experiences,
a traumatic event is most likely to cause negative
effects if it is:
- Inflicted by humans
- Repeated and ongoing
- Unexpected or unpredictable
- Sadistic or intentionally cruel
- Experienced in childhood
People are also more likely to be traumatized as adults
if they have a history of childhood trauma or if they’re
already under a heavy stress load.
Emotional or psychological trauma results
from experiences that make you feel:
Attachment or developmental trauma
Stressful experiences in childhood—whether a
one-time event such as a car accident or an ongoing
situation caused by an unavailable or abusive parent—can
be traumatizing. Childhood trauma, known as attachment
or developmental trauma, results from anything that
disrupts a child’s sense of safety and security.
This includes such things as an unstable or unsafe
environment, separation from a parent, or a serious
illness. Attachment trauma is most severe, however,
when it involves betrayal or harm at the hands of
Attachment trauma has a negative impact on a child’s
physical, emotional, cognitive, and social development.
Children who have been traumatized see the world as
a frightening and dangerous place. When childhood
trauma is not resolved, this fundamental sense of
fear and helplessness can carry over into adulthood,
setting the stage for further trauma.
How childhood trauma affects adult relationships
The quality of the attachment bond between mother
and baby affects the child’s ability—even
as an adult—to feel safe in the world, trust
others, handle stress, and rebound from disappointment.
Early-life trauma disrupts this important attachment
bond, resulting in adult relationship difficulties.
and Adult Relationships
NORMAL RESPONSES TO TRAUMATIC
When it comes to recognizing psychological and emotional
trauma, it’s important to distinguish between
normal reactions to traumatic events and symptoms
of a more serious and persistent problem.
Following a traumatic event, most people experience
a variety of emotions, including shock, fear, anger,
and relief to be alive. Often, they can think or talk
of little else other than what happened. Many others
feel jumpy, detached, or depressed. Such reactions
are neither a sign of weakness nor a positive indicator
of lasting trouble. Rather, they represent a normal
response to an abnormal event.
Common reactions to trauma:
- Guilt and self-blame
- Anxiety and edginess
- Mood swings and irritability
- Feeling disconnected or numb
- Distressing memories about the event
- Insomnia or bad dreams
- Withdrawing from others
- Loss of appetite
- Difficulty concentrating
- Feeling sad or hopeless
These symptoms and feelings typically last from a
few days to a few months, gradually fading as you
process the trauma. But even when you’re feeling
better, you may be troubled from time to time by painful
memories or emotions—especially in response
to triggers such as an anniversary of the event or
an image, sound, or situation that reminds you of
the traumatic experience.
Grieving is normal following a traumatic event
Whether or not a traumatic event involves death or
physical harm, survivors must cope with the loss,
at least temporarily, of their sense of safety and
security. The natural reaction to this loss is grief.
Like people who have lost a loved one, trauma survivors
go through a grieving process. This process, while
inherently painful, is easier if you turn to others
for support, take care of yourself, and talk about
how you feel.
with Grief and Loss
Recovering from a traumatic event takes time, and
everyone heals at his or her own pace. But if months
have passed and your symptoms aren’t letting
up, you may be experiencing emotional or psychological
When to seek professional help
It’s a good idea to seek professional help from
a therapist or doctor if you’re:
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF PSYCHOLOGICAL
OR EMOTIONAL TRAUMA
- Having problems at home or work
- Living in constant fear and anxiety
- Haunted by overwhelming memories or emotions
- Avoiding more and more things that remind
you of the trauma
Recognizing psychological and emotional trauma may
be difficult, especially if the traumatic event occurred
in your childhood. Further complicating the picture,
the signs and symptoms of unresolved emotional trauma
are often mistaken for other metal health problems,
including depression and anxiety.
Unfortunately, antidepressants, anxiety medications,
and other conventional therapies and treatments won’t
heal trauma-induced wounds, so it’s important
to get to the root of the symptoms.
Is Emotional Trauma a Factor in Your Life?
Respond yes or no to the following to determine if
you might be living with the aftermath of a traumatic
If you answered “yes” to
3 or more questions, you might be suffering from emotional
- Can you stand to be alone without turning
on your cell phone, computer, or TV?
- Do you rely on coffee, cigarettes, or
alcohol to lift and/or calm you?
- Are you plagued by physical conditions
for which there appear to be no cures?
- Do you “lose it” with certain
people or in certain situations?
- Do you avoid things you wish you could
- Do you have to be accomplishing something
in order to feel good?
- Do you frequently behave in ways that
- Do you suffer from mysterious ailments
that come and go?
- Do you find it impossible to focus on
some things for more than a time?
- Is it hard for you to trust people?
- Do you feel depressed or anxious although
you have tried conventional treatments?
- Is it difficult for you to commit to
Source: Emotional Intelligence by Jeanne Segal
While the potential signs and symptoms of unresolved
emotional trauma are numerous, the most common indicators
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Emotional numbness and detachment
- Inability to form close, satisfying relationships
- Sense of the world as a cold and dangerous
- Hair trigger stress response (dizziness,
pounding heart, nausea)
- Disturbing memories, nightmares, or flashbacks
- Sense of a foreshortened, limited future
PTSD is the most severe form of trauma. Its primary
symptoms include intrusive memories or flashbacks,
avoiding things that remind you of the traumatic event,
and living in a constant state of “red alert”.
Stress Disorder (PTSD
HEALING FROM PSYCHOLOGICAL
OR EMOTIONAL TRAUMA
In order to heal from psychological and emotional
trauma, you must face and resolve the unbearable feelings
and memories you’ve long avoided. Otherwise
they will return again and again, unbidden and uncontrollable.
The healing journey involves two interrelated steps:
1. Processing the memory of the trauma
2. Discharging pent-up “fight-or-flight”
Working through trauma can be scary, painful, and
potentially retraumatizing. Because of the
risk of retraumatization, this healing work is best
done with the help of an experienced trauma specialist.
Processing the memory of the trauma
Traumatic memories are very different from normal
memories. Extreme stress functions like a pause button
on your brain, preventing you from integrating your
experience into a coherent memory of what happened.
Without a “story” that you can revisit
and interpret, it’s impossible to put the experience
in the past.
As a result, traumatic memories are relived rather
than simply remembered. They may exist only in split-off
fragments—raw emotions, bodily sensations, frightening
images, smells and sounds, physical pain—that
feel just as real as they did during the original
trauma. Reconnecting to these emotional fragments
allows you to process the memory and put it in perspective
at long last.
Discharging fight-or-flight energy
When confronted with a threat, your body instantly
prepares for emergency action in an automatic, biological
process known as the fight-or-flight response. The
fight-or-flight response gives you extra energy to
either fight or escape the threat. Once the danger
passes, you gradually return to a relaxed and normal
But when a threat is so overwhelming that survival
seems impossible, the natural response is to freeze.
This frozen state of shock traps the intense energies
of the fight-or-flight response in the body. In essence,
your nervous system gets stuck in overdrive.
The symptoms of trauma are the result of your body’s
attempts to control this pent-up energy. To heal from
trauma, this excess energy must be discharged in a
physical way, such as:
- Breathing deeply
Melinda Smith, M.A., Jaelline Jaffe, Ph.D., and Jeanne
Segal, Ph.D. contributed to this article. Last modified
Reprinted with permission from http://www.helpguide.org/.
C 2008 Helpguide.org. All rights reserved.
You can find the original article at
FOR MORE INFORMATION ON ANY OF THE ABOVE PLEASE VISIT