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How Does Trauma Affect a Person Long Term?

Trauma is an emotional response to a terrible, distressing event in a person’s life. Whether it be a natural disaster, an accident, or a life-threatening circumstance, traumatic events can leave lasting effects on both your mental health and physical health. This reaction may occur immediately or be delayed. It has no timeline it lives by, and you may experience the effects of trauma for a short period of time or as a long-term condition that needs professional help to navigate.

It can be overwhelming to cope with the lasting effects of trauma in your life. Whether you just experienced a traumatic event or have been trying to cope for a longer period of time, seeing a behavioral health specialist can help you process what you went through and gain control of your mental health.

No two people experience and cope with trauma in the same way. Our therapists at Dana Group are experienced in helping those of all backgrounds and are here to help you every step of the way.

Looking for help? Schedule an appointment today.

What Is Trauma?

Trauma can be caused by an event, or series of events, that produce a lot of stress. These events are often marked by a sense of horror, helplessness, and, sometimes, serious injury. Trauma is not defined as the actual presence of danger, but rather the sense of loss or panic one is feeling during the event.

Trauma triggers the autonomic nervous system, which is the bodily system responsible for triggering a fight or flight response. For some, the ANS doesn’t resume back to normal when the threat has passed and remains activated. It continues to tell the brain and body it is still in danger, keeping it revved up in a prolonged state.

There are many stressful events in a person’s life, but not all leave a person to cope with trauma. It is unclear what causes this in some people and not others. Getting help to understand the symptoms of the trauma you are working through is the first step in your journey to healing and taking control of your best life yet. There are three main types of trauma.

Acute Trauma

This kind of trauma typically results from a single event one has experienced or witnessed that is excessive enough to distress a person’s emotional or physical security. The event may leave a lasting impression on the brain and can be traced back to an exact moment. Examples of traumatic events that can lead to Acute Stress Disorder are experiencing or witnessing:

  • Natural disasters
  • Vehicle accidents
  • Terrorism
  • Physical or sexual assault
  • Sudden loss of a loved one
  • Diagnosis of life-threatening condition

Chronic Trauma

Chronic Trauma is the result of a series of prolonged traumatic events. These events may be the same repeated traumatic event or different traumatic events that happen in a close time period. The onset of symptoms typically takes longer to surface than symptoms of acute trauma. The trauma often quietly lingers until it is provoked by exposure to additional life stressors. This can sometimes take weeks to years, and it is still unclear as to why some are affected and others are not. Examples of Chronic Trauma may include:

  • Domestic violence
  • Bullying
  • Ongoing sexual abuse
  • Long-term illness

Complex Trauma

Complex trauma is very similar to Chronic Trauma, but with an added set of criteria: The events that caused trauma were committed by a caregiver or a trusted person. Usually, these are events that happen during childhood. Since the perpetrator is someone who is trusted, there is a sense of betrayal, therefore adding complexity to the traumatic event itself. A few examples of complex trauma are:

  • Force and manipulation
  • Child abuse
  • Neglect
  • Repeatedly witnessing violence

Symptoms of Trauma

The symptoms of trauma can vary wildly depending on several factors, from the type of traumatic event to the duration in combination with a person’s brain chemistry. As mentioned earlier, it is unclear why some are affected with longer-lasting trauma symptoms from an event than others. Here are some of the symptoms and emotions trauma can cause.

Anxiety

While anxiety is a normal response to stress, when it is experienced in a prolonged state, it can interfere with your day-to-day life. Anxiety that lasts for an extensive amount of time is called chronic anxiety. It is not uncommon for a person to experience chronic anxiety that is directly or indirectly related to a traumatic event.

Anger

Anger and rage can be experienced by a person who has survived trauma. This is more prevalent in those who have experienced ongoing traumatic events than a singular incident. People often have difficulty understanding why distressing events happen and may struggle to process their feelings, which can lead to deep feelings of anger.  

Sadness

Sadness is another emotion our brain can default to when coping with trauma. Trauma can cause depression, which is an extended period of low mood that can significantly impair daily life.

Withdrawal

When coping with a trauma, it can be exhausting to deal with fluctuating emotions. You may also feel like no one else understands what you’re going through or struggle to talk about what you’re experiencing. This can cause you to withdraw from even your closest friends, family, and loved ones. Feeling isolated or alone in your suffering can be detrimental to your healing after trauma.

Skewed Sense of Self and Self-Worth

A skewed sense of self can be experienced in any kind of trauma, but these are most prevalent when experiencing complex trauma.  You have long-term difficulties in relationships, a sense of guilt, shame, difficulties regulating emotions, low self-esteem, a distorted self-image, and a sense of hopelessness.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a diagnosis for symptoms that persist for months or years after a traumatic event. It is a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event, either by experiencing or witnessing it. It can affect a person’s ability to relate to family and friends, go to work, and often seem disinterested in life around them as they try to not think or feel to block painful memories. Among these, there are also several symptoms a person with PTSD may experience:

  • Flashbacks
  • Nightmares
  • Severe anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Uncontrollable thoughts about the event
  • Dissociative thoughts about the event
  • Avoiding reminders of the event

How to Heal from Trauma

Coping with the long-term effects of trauma can make you feel hopeless or like there is no end to the feelings you are having. While the healing process can take time and effort to work through, there are resources out there to guide you to a better, healthier state of mind.

At Dana Group Associates, we’re here to help you give you the support and guidance you need as you start your healing journey. We offer individual therapy, and we also provide group, family, and couples therapy options that allow you to heal alongside your loved ones. Our services also include children’s therapy and medication management when needed. No matter how you choose to seek help, we strive to provide a safe place for you to discuss your experiences, feelings, and the journey you have been on.

Ready to meet with a mental health professional today? Contact our team.