"These mountains you are carrying you were only supposed to climb." ~ Najwa Zebian
Traumatic stress can develop following any event that makes you fear for your safety. Most people associate traumatic stress with rape or battle-scarred soldiers, but any event, or series of events, that overwhelms you with feelings of hopelessness and helplessness and leaves you emotionally shattered can trigger traumatic stress, especially if the event feels unpredictable and uncontrollable.
Traumatic stress can affect people who personally experience the threatening event, those who witness the event, or those who pick up the pieces afterwards, such as emergency workers. Traumatic stress can also result from surgery performed on children too young to fully understand what's happening to them.
Symptoms of Traumatic Stress
1: Re-experiencing the traumatic event
- Intrusive, upsetting memories of the event
- Flashbacks (acting or feeling like the event is happening again)
- Nightmares (either of the event or of other frightening things)
- Feelings of intense distress when reminded of the trauma
- Intense physical reactions to reminders of the trauma (e.g. pounding heart, rapid breathing, nausea, muscle tension, sweating)
2: Avoidance and numbing
- Avoiding activities, places, thoughts, or feelings that are reminders of the trauma
- Inability to remember important aspects of the trauma
- Loss of interest in activities and life in general
- Feeling detached from others and emotionally numb
- Sense of a limited future (not expecting to live a normal life)
- Sleep problems
- Irritability or angry outbursts
- Hypervigilance (on constant “red alert”)
- Feeling jumpy and easily startled
- Aggressive, self-destructive, or reckless behavior
4: Negative thoughts & mood changes
- Guilt or shame
- Feeling alienated and alone
- Feelings of mistrust and betrayal
- Difficulty concentrating or remembering things
- Depression and hopelessness
In children—especially very young children—the symptoms of traumatic stress can be different from adults and may include:
|Fear of being separated from parent|
|Losing previously-acquired skills (such as toilet training)|
|Sleep problems and nightmares|
|Somber, compulsive play in which themes or aspects of the trauma are repeated|
|New phobias and anxieties that seem unrelated to the trauma (such as a fear of monsters)|
|Acting out the trauma through play, stories, or drawings|
|Aches and pains with no apparent cause|
|Irritability and aggression|
“Non-traumatic stressful life events (work, school, financial, health, marriage, or significant change) are as likely as traumatic events to cause symptoms typically associated with Post-Traumatic Stress.”
~Post-Traumatic Stress without Trauma
Harvard Mental Health Letter (December, 2005)
Traumatic stress is memory, trapped in the mind and body, that keeps getting triggered into present awareness.
If we go through too much stress, we may dissociate.
It lets us adapt to overwhelming events.
If we dissociated, we may not have processed the event, and it remains as memory, to be triggered over again in the present.
Trauma can program us, and make us think, feel, and respond differently.
Our life can become more limited.
We question ourselves and the world.
We avoid things that remind us of the memory.
We criticize ourselves because we can't "get over it", "let it go", or even be mindful (present awareness without judgement).
Using EMDR and mindfulness techniques while acknowledging the negativity lets the body naturally process and neutralize memories from the past, letting us not trigger, and truly stay more present.
"A human being is a part of a whole, called by us the universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest... a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. Nobody is able to achieve this completely, but the striving for such achievement is in itself a part of the liberation, and a foundation for inner security." - Albert Einstein.
“Mindfulness is about being fully awake in our lives. It is about perceiving the exquisite vividness of each moment. We also gain immediate access to our own powerful inner resources for insight, transformation, and healing.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn
"I am much more powerful today than the old programs and mind viruses that I absorbed."~ Wayne Dyer
"One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious. The latter procedure, however, is disagreeable and therefore not popular." ~ Carl Jung