24 Common Signs Of Trauma and How To Heal

Experiencing a traumatic event has a major impact on your emotional, physical and psychological health.

Trauma may be long term, such as being in a relationship with a narcissist or an abusive person. Trauma may be a single event, such as something painful or shocking that happens.

Trauma challenges your sense of safety in the world and the reliability of the world.

Trauma challenges your sense of self, of who you are.

Gabor Mate, a Canadian doctor and expert on trauma in his book “The Myth of Normal” writes that “trauma is not what happens to you but what happens inside you”.

In this quote he is talking about the impact of a traumatic event being individual. Some may walk away from an event relatively unscathed whereas others may be deeply impacted.

The age you are when you experience a trauma has an impact on how you are affected. Trauma occurring in childhood, while the child is still developing their sense of identity as well as developing their brain, has the potential to cause more damage than trauma affecting an adult.

The 24 most common signs of unhealed trauma include:

1.    Being chronically exhausted

2.    Finding it difficult to trust others

3.    Compulsive behaviours and addictions, all about avoiding unpleasant feelings

4.    Not feeling safe anywhere, at home, out of the home, inside your body

5.    Experiencing emotional numbness

6.    Experiencing difficulty concentrating

7.    Having a heightened startle response

8.    Finding it difficult to sleep or having nightmares.

9.    Feeling numb and dissociated from what is going on around you

10.   Skin issues such as rashes and other irritations.

11.   Upset stomach, diarrhoea, bloating, nausea and so on

12.   Constantly apologising

13.   Constantly thinking about things

14.   Gaining or losing weight.

15.   Feeling emotionally dysregulated and struggling to contain feelings of rage or anger

16.   Feeling Depressed

17.   Self-isolating from others

18.   Uncontrollably crying

19.   Experiencing difficulties relating to others

20.   Being frightened of being alone

21.   Struggling with memory and processing information

22.   Having unrealistic beliefs about other people.

23.   Feeling guilty, and experiencing shame.

24.   Being hypervigilant.

As you can imagine, experiencing even some of these signs is distressing and challenging to your sense of who you are.

How Do I Recover?

The biggest impact of trauma is your sense of who you are.

The good news is that you can rebuild your sense of who you are.

You can also learn how to trust the world. Part of that learning is identifying what safety for you is, right now.

You also need to allow yourself time to grieve for what you have lost. Without that healing is not possible.

This recovery will not happen overnight. It takes time. Don’t rush. Don’t think you are failing because you are not “over it” quickly. Cut yourself some slack and be patient.

What Do I Need To Do To Recover?

Sometimes, if the trauma had a smaller impact on you, you can recover with the help of supportive people. Other times you need a trauma trained counsellor to help you.

The first thing you need to do is to understand what safety looks like for you.

Once you understand what that is, you can work at rebuilding your sense of safety.

Rebuilding Your Sense of Safety

To feel safe, you need to feel safe within your body. When you suffer a trauma you may want to run away from the unpleasant feelings. You experience these feelings in your body. A major part of coping with the unpleasant feelings is ignoring what your body is experiencing.

To rebuild your sense of safety you need to learn to feel what is happening in your body. You also need to learn to be comfortable with those feelings.

For someone who experienced trauma as a child, there may never have been learning about feeling into the body. For those who learned already, it will be more about learning to feel into the body again.

Regulation Is A Major Part of Feeling Safe

When you experience uncomfortable feelings in your body you need to be able to cope with those feelings.

Many people learn unhealthy ways to do this. Addictions and compulsive behaviours are about dulling feelings. Emotional numbing is also an unhealthy strategy.

What you may need to learn is how to calm your body. Being able to calm yourself down allows you to feel you have control over the feelings in your body as well as the emotions and memories that come up. That is very empowering. When you have control and feel you have power then you can feel safe.

Internal Safety Leads Outward

Once you feel safe in yourself, you can feel more confident to start trusting those closest to you, then those less close and finally strangers and situations you encounter day to day.

When you feel safe in yourself you also can experience greater clarity around the people in your life and can make decisions about what relationship you have that are unhealthy and set boundaries around those relationships.

Boundaries may look like ending the relationship, limiting when you see the other person, or even limiting the type of contact you will have with them and the type of behaviour you will tolerate from them.

Allow Space For Grieving

When you experience trauma, whether it is recent or in the past, you have lost things that are important. The loss of sense of self and sense of safety. What way you saw the world and those around you is lost. You have also lost the life you had. There may be other losses as well.

All these losses need to be recognised and grieved over.

Grief isn’t pleasant. It hurts. You may even feel angry. The pain is deep.

It is important to learn to be okay with those unpleasant feelings. Don’t try to avoid the feelings by getting busy with activities, be they work, social life, hobbies or relationships. Those avoidance activities will only prolong the grief, they won’t solve it.

A lot of the signs of trauma are caused by trying to avoid the pain.

Counselling is helpful here too in learning how to process this grief.

Building Your Connection Back To Self

When you have grieved the losses and rebuilt your sense of safety in the world you can work on establishing a connection to yourself so you can get to know Who You Are again.

This is a wonderful opportunity to explore the things in life that help you feel who you are. The things that feed you.

This is where you learn to listen to your body as it tells you it is comfortable.

This is where you may find that trying new things will help you discover aspects of yourself you didn’t know existed.

Here is your opportunity to learn how to live in the post trauma world.

Space and Time

As you rebuild your sense of self and safety, as well as grieving for what was lost, give yourself the space to grow.

Ensuring you sleep enough hours is important. Take yourself out to the beach of the bush. Sit and feel the waves at your feet, sit under a tree and listen to the sound of wind through the leaves. See a trauma trained counsellor.

Surround yourself with people who support you and will encourage you to grow and try new things.

Most importantly give yourself time. See this as a journey that is best enjoyed and taken at a slow enjoyable pace.

Can I Help?

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with healing from your trauma, please contact me on 0409396608 or nan@plentifullifecounselling.com.au

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with helpful information, tips, information on courses, and the occasional freebie. At the moment I have a free mindfulness meditation for anyone who signs up to my newsletter. This meditation offers a way to safely explore your feelings and learn to be okay with them. If you would like to subscribe please click on the link here: http://eepurl.com/g8Jpiz

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