Coping with a Traumatic Experience
A traumatic experience can be anything that is complex, difficult and / or very painful to make sense of. It can often lead us to feel disconnected from ourselves and to remain hyper vigilant to any future threat. It can also cause a person to feel detached from the people and things that they love or have previously been very important in their life, as well as impact on their eating and sleeping patterns. This, in turn, can make it harder for a person affected by trauma to continue to engage in activities that have previously made their life meaningful.
We may not always know at the time of an event that it has been traumatising for us as we may need to be in more a 'survival mode' to help keep us safe and deal with what is happening in the moment. However, after a traumatic event/ set of traumatic events, we may start to notice that when, perhaps we feel that things should be going back to normal, we are experiencing higher levels of distress, increased agitation or anger, nightmares, distressing or intrusive thoughts and other symptoms that we have not experienced before; such as greater levels of pain or physical discomfort in our bodies.
Psychological trauma is something that can be experienced, even if the distressing event has not happened directly to ourselves. It is also possible that the trauma may be experienced in relation to something that happened a long time ago. Unprocessed trauma can stay inside a person for many years; sometimes without that person being fully aware. This can mean that the person who has suffered a traumatic event may feel that they have been able to get on with their life in a relatively normal way by, perhaps ignoring or simply trying not to think about the traumatic event. This can be very helpful in the short term, however can have significant implications for our general health and wellbeing if it continues for any length of time.
The therapy process can help people to understand more about what their experience has meant for them and why it may have been hard to process it in a way that allows them to move on with their life, out from the shadow of what has happened to them.