Trauma is a response to a severe/dramatic event or events.
The word trauma is often associated with war, sexual abuse, assault or near death-experiences like a hijacking, a car accident or serious surgery. However, it can also refer to less obvious experiences too. These “micro-traumas” accumulate over months and years and can have as devastating effect as a once off life-threatening experience. This can include domestic abuse over time, bullying, workplace stress and as we all know more recently, pandemic or collective stress.
No matter where trauma comes from, the body can store it on a physical level. It is NOT "just in your head". This is demonstrated when people who go for acupuncture, physiotherapy, massage or even yoga, start to cry or feel very emotional. It is possible that this is repressed pain being released from the body. Because trauma can be stored on a cellular level, often we react in ways that we don’t understand, because it is not necessarily our minds remembering a memory, it is our physical being. The memory happens on a physical level.
Psychological/Emotional Symptoms of trauma include:
· Flashbacks and nightmares
· Mood swings
· Sadness, hopelessness
· Mood Swings
· A feeling of being disconnected – not being fully present, feeling “numb”
· Guilt, shame
· Difficulty concentrating
Physical Symptoms of trauma include:
· Digestive problems
· Racing heart
· Aches and pain
· Muscle tension
· Hyperarousal - a state of always being alert/on edge
As a Counsellor of Sexuality, my role is to educate clients about trauma response symptoms.
We discuss trauma response symptoms and their physiological components, and when appropriate look into links between these symptoms and substance abuse and mental health issues. It is very important to communicate that treatment and other wellness activities can improve both psychological and physiological symptoms (e.g., cognitive behavioural therapy, meditation, exercise, yoga). Of course, there are cases that need to be referred to a psychiatrist or psychologist to address severe symptoms.
My aim is to support people, provide a message of hope, to normalize trauma symptoms and to explain that symptoms are not a sign of weakness, or being damaged. It is the bodies response to extraordinary circumstances.