After a traumatic event, people often expect themselves to just go on with their lives.
With time and the support of others, some people find that they are largely able to do this. However, for others, the effects of the trauma linger. Their sense of self, their relationships, and their ability to function in the world may have been significantly altered.
Therapy for trauma-related symptoms
I find that people who enter therapy with trauma-related symptoms tend to fall into two groups.
The first group is aware that the trauma changed something for them, and they can point to the trauma as the cause of that change.
The second group enters therapy for reasons other than the trauma. They describe mood and relationship difficulties. It’s only after further discussion that the connections between their current symptoms and the previous trauma(s) become clear.
Both groups say things like:
- “I am angry or irritable most of the time.”
- “I don’t feel connected to people.”
- “My sleep is terrible.”
- “I am numb and don’t really care about anything.”
- “I don’t enjoy things like I used to.”
- “Whenever I leave home, I feel tense and on guard.”
Often trauma causes people to also experience strong negative thoughts about themselves, other people, and/or the world.
Finally, with varying degrees of intensity, trauma survivors also encounter the classic trauma symptoms of:
- Avoidance (the tendency to avoid situations, people, sounds, and sights that remind them of the trauma)
- Re-experiencing (a sense of re-experiencing the trauma through the occurrence of nightmares, flashbacks, and unwanted, intrusive thoughts)
Do I really have PTSD?
If your symptoms are not as severe as what you have seen in movies or you don’t think your symptoms fit the diagnostic criteria of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), please know that all of these symptoms exist on a continuum. If you are experiencing symptoms related to your trauma, the trauma is affecting your life.
Reclaim your life
Whether your trauma(s) was long ago or much more recently, therapy can help you reclaim your life. While the trauma will always be part of your story, you can decide where the story goes from here.
I hope that you will reach out and give therapy a try.