Such as The language of mental health continues to crawl In our daily life, the concept of trauma seems to have become prevalent. While the idea of speaking openly about trauma a few decades ago might have been a taboo, traumatic events and survivors’ attempt to heal from them are now the subject of headlines, TV shows and TikTok therapy.
Prince Harry said in his documentary series with Oprah Winfrey that he is dealing with the trauma of his mother’s death It was essential to his well-being as well as to the health of his marriage. Earlier this year rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez talks about the shock method She survived as a survivor of sexual assault and capitol riot vehicles “on each other.” People of color demand greater recognition For mental and physical damage ethnic trauma takes on their lives. The COVID-19 pandemic has been a chain of traumatic events.
“It is a political act to talk about trauma because so much exploitation and abuse and abuse have been hidden for so long and not acknowledged,” said Emily Sachs, a clinical psychologist who specializes in trauma. “The people who were the subject of this were blamed for their problems. This continues today.”
While some people work to raise awareness about the prevalence of trauma, others are inadvertently diluting the term, often using it excessively: “I was shocked by what I ate last night” or “I accidentally killed a vegetarian and now I’m shocked.”
“I think it’s a double-edged sword because by introducing these terms into our everyday language, it’s almost natural to talk about these things, but at the same time completely underestimates the real effects of these disorders,” said psychotherapist Janelle Kabbaj. “Talking about mental health and all of these conditions is fine, but the way we talk about it is really important.”
What is shock?
Sacks said trauma is what happens to a person and their reaction to it. It generally refers to intense and stressful experiences that involve significant loss, threat, or harm to a person’s physical and/or emotional health.
Many trauma experts define the term broadly in their work as a way to provide patients with agency in identifying the trauma in their lives.
Clinical psychologist Seth Gillihan said, “There is value in ruling out some things from what trauma might be…but at the same time, I think we can’t have a very narrow definition where we deny the reality of a person’s experience.” “It is important to be as comprehensive as we can without weakening the term so much that it then becomes meaningless.”
Kabbaj said that people sometimes confuse trauma Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which has its own clinical definition and identifies groups of specific symptoms. Not everyone who suffers from trauma will have PTSD, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have prolonged difficulty functioning.
Many clinicians also argue that the definition of PTSD in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) — whose criteria begin with “experienced actual or threatened death, serious injury, or sexual violence” — is limited. Cubbage said he failed to address certain types of relational and racial trauma.
“If you think of someone who has been cheated on by their partner, that very well can be distressing for people, but that wouldn’t meet the criteria for PTSD,” Kabage said. “Watching repeated videos of someone who looks like you’re getting killed by police officers or being subjected to hate crimes can be distressing, but… they won’t meet the criteria for PTSD. So there are a lot of issues with the way that trauma is triggered. visualize it clinically.”
What effect does the shock have on us?
Our body’s response to shock is normal. It is an adaptive reaction, a feature of the system. But because of the overwhelming nature of the traumatic experience, trauma produces a biological, psychological and social response that can change how we interact with things in the long run — loud noises, crowded trains, the opposite sex.
“Trauma writes itself on our experience, on our hearts, in our minds, on our bodies. What we are really experiencing is not the original event, but the impact it leaves,” Gillihan said.
During a shock, the body’s emergency response system releases chemicals to keep it safe, but when it’s too severe or for too long, or happens multiple times, it can cause a permanent change in the way the body produces chemicals and functions.
Trauma affects memory, as memories from the traumatic experience are shut down very intensely and accessed differently. Trauma cognitively and emotionally changes our understanding of the world, and what we can expect of others and our environments.
Different types of shocks
Anything that causes extreme panic, fear, helplessness, and terror, Sachs said, produces a similar chemical reaction in our bodies, because we are passionate about keeping ourselves safe. But it’s also true that different types of trauma affect people differently. Personal trauma, such as rape, appears to be the most toxic in terms of the chemical response, but also in terms of the way it changes our meanings and expectations about the world and our relationships.
There is a difference between experiencing the shock of a natural disaster and the trauma of interpersonal violence. There is also a difference between an acute, one-time traumatic event, such as a car accident, and chronic or complex trauma.
Chronic trauma is ongoing, and complex trauma usually refers to traumatic experiences in early childhood, such as abuse or neglect. Cubbage said in her practice, she has yet to meet someone who has experienced only one traumatic event.
Why do two people experience the same trauma but react differently
There are the kinds of events that are likely to shake the biopsychosocial foundation of any person, and they are deeply traumatic and universally fearful.
At the same time, six people can experience the same event and some will be able to quickly return to balance and find a sense of safety again, while others will develop symptoms of long-term trauma or even PTSD.
Gillihan said his best friend had been violently robbed and seemed unfazed. Gillihan had a similar experience, but said he experienced typical post-traumatic reactions, including feelings of insecurity and constant stress.
“People are alike differently, and it’s easy to blame ourselves if we’re someone who struggles more in the aftermath of trauma. But we can’t really predict who’s going to struggle and who doesn’t, and it doesn’t seem to be about who’s hard and who’s not, who’s afraid and who isn’t.” There are some correlations that we can identify, but in general, we don’t know who will recover after trauma and who will experience it more for longer, perhaps more deeply.”
Comparing two people’s reactions to trauma is also complicated by the fact that many trauma survivors experience delayed onset of trauma symptoms, Sachs said. While it may appear that two people have very different reactions, it may in fact be that one person has a delayed response and will develop clinically serious trauma weeks, months, or even years later.
Flexibility does not protect you from shocks
If two people are traumatized and one retreats while the other is struggling, there is sometimes a misperception that one person is more resilient. But experts say resilience is not something that stops you from suffering from mental health struggles. A resilient person can be traumatized or suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder as well.
What resilience does is prepare you to access the right types of post-traumatic aftercare. It can help you learn how to take care of yourself after a traumatic event. It can help protect you from corrosive or toxic things in your environment that can make you more vulnerable to shocks. Part of the flexibility is also having the financial resources to access care and the people around you who can validate your experiences.
“A lot of times when people think about resilience, they think, ‘Oh, you know it’s just this person’s innate ability to deal with things that happen to them. “But much of what nourishes our ability to deal with whatever life throws at us is external props.”
Why validation is so important for trauma survivors
Part of luxury is knowing that we belong. When we go through trauma, we can feel out of the group, either because we believe that no one can understand what we are going through, or because we have experienced social rejection.
“One of the most comforting things that people hear is, ‘Yeah, this actually happened. Yes, your reaction is normal. Yes, this happens to other good people. Yes, there is a way you can do just fine. “And yes, that others care about justice, if it is relevant,” said Sacks.
Experts say it’s also important for trauma survivors to give themselves permission to hurt and heal, and to realize that they are not weak in the struggle. Not everything that happens after a trauma is dissolution. Trauma survivors are able to grow after trauma, as they become stronger and their lives become richer and more meaningful in its wake.
All experts agree that a person’s recovery and opportunity for transformation are closely linked to their environment, how the people around them respond, and whether or not support is available.
“We are all part of the trauma and what it turns into,” Sachs said. This is why there is hope, too.
You may also be interested in: