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How To Know if You are Suffering From Trauma or PTSD

Trauma is both intense and complicated. It leaves a deep and lasting impression on your physical, mental, and emotional health, but understanding its effects is complex and not as easily understood by most patients. That is why many individuals struggle to realize that the symptoms they experience are a sign of PTSD or other Trauma Disorders. Many people disregard their own traumatic experiences and try to ignore the negative thoughts, intense emotions, and physical ailments that stem from unresolved traumas and their lasting impact on their lives and relationships. In the long run, though, this denial only leads to more devastating experiences, Depression, Anxiety Disorders, Eating Disorders, addictive behaviors, substance abuse, alcoholism, sex/porn addictions, pain, and a much harder healing experience that has compounded over time.  

It is crucial to take the early signs of trauma seriously and seek immediate intervention from a Licensed Clinical Psychologist. Learn how to know if you are suffering from trauma or PTSD with this overview of trauma, its symptoms, and the influence it can have over your life. 

What Does Trauma Look Like? 

There are many misconceptions about trauma and traumatic experiences. Breaking through this misinformation and developing a clear understanding of what trauma is and where it comes from is essential for correctly identifying signs of trauma in your life.  

Many people primarily associate Trauma Disorders such as PTSD with violent physical or sexual experiences. As a result, the most common examples of PTSD revolve around veterans or people who have survived violent crimes or sexual abuse. But these examples are far from the only ways you can experience trauma. Below are different potential sources of trauma experiences and how they can lead to Trauma Disorders, including PTSD. 

Firsthand Experiences 

A firsthand traumatic experience is the clearest way to experience trauma. This includes the examples most people associate with trauma, such as military combat, violent assault, sexual abuse, car accidents, or natural disasters. However, it can also include less frequently discussed experiences such as childhood neglect, loss of a parent during formative years, parental divorce, experiencing domestic violence, parental substance abuse, parental anger issues, helicopter parenting, relocating to various cities during childhood years, absence of parental figures, verbal or emotional abuse, or discrimination. 

Witnessing Trauma 

Witnessing violent events can also lead to trauma. For example, watching a car crash occur or calling 911 to break up a domestic dispute you overhear will result in trauma. Even though you are never hurt or in direct danger, you are still witnessing violence, danger, and loss. The things you see, hear, and feel while witnessing these traumatic experiences will have a significant mental and emotional impact. 

Secondhand Experiences 

Some trauma stems from indirect experiences. Hearing accounts of trauma or seeing the effects of trauma on another person can lead to secondary trauma. Though this form of trauma is indirect, it can still have a significant impact on your mental and emotional well-being. Secondary trauma can stem from helping a loved one through the aftermath of a traumatic event. It is also common among professionals whose jobs put them close to violent experiences or traumatized individuals, such as first responders. 

Reliving Trauma 

How can you tell if your traumatic experience has led to PTSD or other Trauma Disorders? Because trauma affects everyone differently, the symptoms of trauma are not always imminently clear or blatantly obvious. There are numerous ways trauma, PTSD, and Trauma Disorders present themselves.  

One common indicator is the experience of reliving your traumatic experience through flashbacks, intrusive thoughts, and emotional or physical sensations. These symptoms force individuals to reexperience their trauma repeatedly throughout their adulthood and relationships.  

This might take the form of flashbacks or vivid nightmares about the traumatic experience. However, reliving trauma can also involve intrusive thoughts, emotions, and sensations. You might experience ruminating thoughts, compulsions, or compulsive behaviors that take you and your relationships on a downward spiral. You can also experience emotional or physical symptoms that arise when you think about the event, causing you severe emotional distress or forcing you to detach, dissociate, and disconnect from your relationships and life in order to numb the overwhelming feelings associated with unresolved traumas. 

Avoiding Reminders of Trauma 

Another way you can tell if you are suffering from trauma or PTSD is by identifying avoidant behaviors in your life. It is natural to shy away from triggers and other factors that remind you of painful experiences. But when that avoidance takes over your life, habits, and behaviors, it becomes a severe clinical issue and creates a domino effect in all aspects of your personal, social, romantic, and professional life. 

Individuals with trauma will do their best to shut down all negative thoughts and overwhelming feelings related to their traumatic experiences by numbing from their painful realities, forcing them to engage in a variety of addictive behaviors. Many will refuse to talk about the event. They may also avoid places that remind them of their traumas; for example, they might use primitive defense mechanisms to cope with the unresolved traumas. These defense mechanisms include Denial, Acting Out, Repression, Regression, Suppression, Rationalization, Intellectualization, Projections, Compartmentalization, Displacement, Passive-Aggression, Fantasy, Compensation, or Sublimation. Avoidant behaviors can also revolve around people who were present during the traumatic events. 

These avoidant behaviors can consume your life. In trying to hide from your traumas, you prevent yourself from retrieving, recovering, and remembering the traumatic events. This makes it impossible to systematically and methodically process, repair, and remedy those traumatic events in order to overcome, treat, and heal your traumas. 

Negative Thoughts and Feelings Stemming From Traumas 

Trauma negatively impacts the way you see yourself, the people around you, and the world at large. After a traumatic experience, many people develop negative thoughts, adverse feelings, and maladaptive beliefs that make the world a more distressing place for them.  

You will develop paranoias and dysfunctional feelings, disabling you from being able to trust, depend, or rely on anyone, not even those in intimate relationships or associations with you. You will struggle to feel safe and secure, making you unable to relax due to chronic experiences of heightened danger, anxiety, unsafety, insecurity, and uneasiness in facets of your life and relationships. 

It is also common for individuals with trauma to feel as if no one will ever understand what they went through. Guilt, anger, sadness, and shame will also become overwhelming in the wake of a traumatic life or childhood experiences. While these feelings are not exclusive to trauma, PTSD, or Mental Health Disorders, unresolved childhood traumas make them severe enough that they negatively impact your Mental Health, Physical Health, relationships, work, and overall quality of life. 

Feelings of Anxiety and Hypervigilance 

Anxiety, paranoia, and hypervigilance are all common indicators of Trauma Disorders such as PTSD. If you suffer from unresolved traumas, you likely feel constantly alert, anxious, paranoid, untrusting, and chronically on edge. You may be unable to relax even when you are in a safe place or with people you should be able to trust.  

You will be constantly irritable, annoyed, and easily frustrated, and you will become upset, frustrated, alarmed, feel attacked, offended, vulnerable, or panicked easily. Unresolved traumas also cause you to feel jumpy, hypervigilant, or easily startled. You are constantly on high alert, which means you have trouble sleeping or focusing. This disorder can also cause physical symptoms such as a rapid heartbeat, cardiovascular disease, shortness of breath, weight gain, Eating Disorders, substance abuse, or addictions. 

Numbing Behaviors 

Many individuals turn to unhealthy behaviors to numb or ignore symptoms of unresolved traumas. They may engage in a variety of addictive behaviors such as sex, porn, gambling, gaming, social media, traveling, shopping sprees, codependent relationships, alcohol, drug abuse, and other reckless activities to dissociate and detach from the overwhelming feelings associated with unresolved traumas. In addition to being unhealthy and dangerous, these behaviors can develop into comorbid Mood Disorders, Eating Disorders, Codependent Relationships, Personality Disorders, and other Addiction Disorders.  

Numbing behaviors do not help you retrieve, recover, or remember the traumas in order to effectively process, treat, and heal from your traumas. They exacerbate your issues by compounding them over time. This makes the adverse symptoms of your traumas much harder to survive and makes it increasingly difficult to seek professional interventions using the evidence-based treatments you deserve. 

Seek Trauma Therapy at Blair Wellness Group 

PTSD and other Trauma Disorders require professional treatment. By working with a Licensed Clinical Psychologist, you can discover the root of your trauma and better understand the effects it has on your social, professional, and personal life. Find a qualified Trauma Therapist in Orange County, Los Angeles, and the surrounding areas when you book an appointment with Blair Wellness Group. 

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