The Impact of a Traumatic Event – How Your Mind, Body & Relationships are Affected
We all go through hard times. They are a normal and inevitable part of life. Such times help you better appreciate when things are going smoothly. Then there are traumatic events. These experiences are not only intense. They also dramatically impact you — both in the moment and for a time afterward.
Your mind, your body, and your relationships are affected in a broad range of ways. To address such an impact requires you to explore the cause, the effect, and the treatment.
What is a Traumatic Event?
A traumatic event is one that our nervous system perceives as life-threatening. Such an event — one-time or ongoing — may trigger a response that debilitates us:
Examples include the death of a loved one (including pets) or witnessing a death, domestic abuse, rape/sexual assault, accident or illness, divorce or separation, relocation, job loss, prison stay, or events like war, terrorism, and natural disasters.
How Traumatic Events Affect Your Mind and Body & Relationships
Reliving the Event(s)
This may include flashbacks, nightmares, and more. As if your brain is trying to make sense of what happened to you, the event appears as an intrusive thought or recurring dream. Flashbacks, in particular, can result in all the original emotions returning like a tidal wave.
Ranging from intense anxiety to a sense of numbness, trauma can keep you guessing as to what you will feel next. Common emotions include:
You may develop a coping mechanism by which you actively avoid any reminders of the trauma. Such a mindset can also lead you to avoid situations and people who you feel may trigger reminders. You may even experience a sense of dissociation when everyday life becomes too overwhelming. This is disturbing enough but when avoidance leads to substance abuse, it can take things to a dangerous new level. It is essential to seek help before you actively look for ways to block out memories and feelings.
Trauma breeds cynicism, bitterness, and distrust. You may wonder if there’s anyone you can trust. You see the world as a perpetually treacherous place. Your life becomes a relentless loop of paranoia and self-defense.
Speaking of self-defense, you may even find yourself unable to relax. You feel the need to always keep your guard up. You’re easily startled and see danger around every corner. In such a state, sleep disturbances are all too common.
In the end, trauma often shatters your self-esteem. You wonder why you didn’t see it coming. What didn’t I do enough to prevent the event? This can expand into blaming yourself for how you handled the trauma afterward. Your anger turns inward when you see yourself as weak, stupid, or foolish for “letting” the trauma happen in the first place.
How Traumatic Events Affect Your Relationships
Give that above list a re-read. It probably feels clear how such reactions and outcomes can and will change how you interact with others. This means everyone — from strangers to loved ones who are nearest and dearest to you. Individuals suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) may also experience the added pain of strained relationships.
Unfortunately, even those close to you may be unable to validate your experiences and emotions. They mean well when they urge you to “get past it” or “move on.” But this reaction tends to breed resentment and may push you further into avoidance.
The one choice you cannot afford to avoid is getting help. Seek out a trained professional as soon as possible. If you need support or have additional questions, find more answers regarding trauma and anxiety treatment here. Please contact me soon for a consultation.