Between the years 1995 to 1997, Kaiser Permanente and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) conducted research labeled the Adverse Childhood Experiences study, or simply “ACEs”.
In this study, a link was discovered between adverse childhood experiences (traumatic events that occurred before the age of 18) and health and social problems throughout a person’s life. The more adverse childhood experiences one has, the higher likelihood this person will experience health and social problems. Additionally, in the US alone at least one traumatic event in a lifetime has been experienced by 61% of men and 51% of women.
What Is Trauma
Trauma refers to an emotional, psychological, or physical response to a distressing or disturbing event or series of events. Trauma can have a profound and lasting impact on an individual's mental and emotional well-being. It can manifest in various ways and affect people differently, but it often disrupts one's sense of safety, security, and overall functioning.
There are several key aspects of trauma:
Types of Trauma:
Physical Trauma: This includes injuries or harm to the body, such as accidents, falls, or physical assaults.
Emotional Trauma: Emotional trauma is the result of distressing events that overwhelm an individual's ability to cope, such as loss of a loved one, abuse, or witnessing violence.
Psychological Trauma: This can be caused by traumatic experiences that affect an individual's mental and emotional well-being, such as war, natural disasters, or childhood neglect or abuse.
Developmental Trauma: Traumatic experiences in childhood can have long-lasting effects on one's development, potentially leading to issues in adulthood.
Response to Trauma:
Fight, Flight, or Freeze Response: When faced with a traumatic event, the body and mind may react by either fighting, fleeing, or freezing. These responses are part of the body's natural defense mechanisms.
Dissociation: Some individuals may dissociate during a traumatic event, feeling disconnected from their own bodies or the world around them as a way to cope.
Symptoms of Trauma: Trauma can lead to a wide range of emotional, physical, and psychological symptoms, which can include:
Flashbacks and nightmares
Intrusive thoughts and memories
Avoidance of situations or reminders of the trauma
Hyperarousal, such as heightened anxiety, irritability, or difficulty sleeping
Negative changes in beliefs and feelings about oneself or the world
Trauma and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Trauma and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): Some individuals who experience trauma may develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), a specific mental health condition characterized by symptoms that persist for an extended period, typically more than a month. These symptoms can significantly impact one's daily life and well-being.
PTSD is a mental health condition that some people develop after going through a really scary or traumatic event. It can be something like a car accident, a natural disaster, a serious injury, or even something like being in a war zone. When someone has PTSD, it can make their life more difficult because they experience a bunch of symptoms that can impact their daily life and well-being.
Here are some of the common symptoms of PTSD and how they can affect a person:
Flashbacks: This is when someone feels like they're reliving the traumatic event, as if it's happening again. It can be very distressing and make them feel scared and upset.
Nightmares: People with PTSD often have bad dreams about the traumatic event, and these nightmares can be really scary and make it hard to sleep.
Avoidance: They might try to avoid places, people, or things that remind them of the traumatic event. This can limit what they can do and where they can go.
Anxiety and Panic: People with PTSD can feel really anxious and on edge a lot of the time. They might get jumpy or have panic attacks, which are sudden and intense feelings of fear.
Mood Changes: PTSD can cause mood swings. Someone might feel really sad or angry without a clear reason, which can make it hard to enjoy things they used to like.
Difficulty Concentrating: It can be hard for them to focus on schoolwork or everyday tasks because their mind is often filled with thoughts about the traumatic event.
Trouble Sleeping: Nightmares and anxiety can make it tough to get a good night's sleep, which can leave them feeling tired and irritable during the day.
All these symptoms can make it challenging for someone with PTSD to have a normal, happy life. It can affect their school, friendships, and family relationships. But the good news is that there are treatments available, like therapy and sometimes medication, that can help people with PTSD feel better and manage their symptoms.
It's important for anyone who thinks they might have PTSD to reach out to a trusted adult or a mental health professional for support and guidance because it's a treatable condition, and many people with PTSD go on to lead fulfilling lives with the right help and support.
Coping and Recovery: Coping with trauma and recovering from it can be a challenging and individualized process. Many people benefit from therapy, support from loved ones, and self-care practices. Trauma-focused therapy, such as Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), can be effective in helping individuals process and heal from trauma.
It's important to remember that trauma is a complex and deeply personal experience. What may be traumatic for one person might not be traumatic for another. Additionally, the impact of trauma can vary widely, and individuals may respond differently to similar traumatic events. Compassion, understanding, and professional help can be essential in assisting those who have experienced trauma on their journey to recovery.
The Weight of Trauma
I had a client I'll call her Sarah.
Once upon a time, in the quiet neighborhood of Marianna Florida, lived a teenager named Sarah. She was an ordinary girl with dreams of adventure and success, just like any other teenager. Little did she know that one sunny afternoon, her life would be forever changed by an event that would leave an indelible mark on her.
The Day Everything Changed
It was a bright, beautiful day. Birds sang in the trees, and the sun cast a warm glow over the neighborhood. Sarah had gone to the park with her friends to enjoy a game of soccer. Laughter filled the air as they ran around the field, their hearts light and carefree. But in an instant, everything shifted.
As they played, an unexpected accident occurred. Sarah watched in shock as her best friend, Alex, took a fall that would alter the course of her life. The memory of that moment would be etched in her mind forever.
What Trauma Feels Like
Trauma can feel like a sudden, heavy weight pressing down on your chest. It's as if the world around you slows down, and you're trapped in a moment of intense fear, helplessness, or horror. For Sarah, that moment in the park became a constant replay in her mind, like a never-ending loop of fear and anxiety.
Responses to Trauma
The way people respond to trauma varies greatly. Some may initially feel numb, as if they can't process what happened. Others may burst into tears, their emotions overwhelming them. For Sarah, it was a mixture of both. She couldn't stop thinking about the accident, and it seemed to haunt her every thought.
Negative Coping Mechanisms
Trauma often triggers negative coping mechanisms. Some people might withdraw from friends and family like Sarah did. She found it hard to talk about her feelings and became more isolated, thinking she was protecting herself. Others might turn to unhealthy habits, such as substance abuse or risky behaviors, as a way to escape the pain.
The Healing Journey
But not all responses to trauma are negative. Some people, like Sarah, eventually find their way towards healing. With time, support from friends and family, and professional help, they can learn to cope with their traumatic experiences.
Sarah eventually realized that she needed to talk about her feelings, even if it was difficult. She started seeing me as her therapist I helped her understand that her response to the trauma was normal and that healing was possible. She also began opening up to her friends, which brought her the support she so desperately needed.
Traumatic events can shake the very core of a person's being, leaving them feeling lost, scared, and vulnerable. How individuals respond to trauma is a deeply personal experience, and it's essential to remember that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to healing. Some may initially respond negatively, but with the right help and support, they can find their way towards recovery and resilience.
In the case of Sarah, the traumatic event had set her on a journey of self-discovery, resilience, and healing. Her path was filled with ups and downs, but it was a testament to the human spirit's incredible capacity to overcome adversity.
ARE YOU LOOKING TO DIVE DEEPER INTO SELF-CARE?
I Can Help in Developing A Plan For Self Care
Do you want help developing a self-care plan that works for your own busy schedule? Do you want accountability in implementing a self-care plan? If you or someone you love is struggling to maintain optimal mental and emotional health, consider reaching out to Spiced Life Conversation Art Wellness Studio and Botanica. We are a Metro Atlanta, Conyers Georgia area. We are a coaching and counseling practice with empathetic, skilled counselors and recovery coaches who can help you set goals, develop a self-care routine, and move forward to build a more fulfilling life. Our team would be happy to work with you either just for a couple of sessions to develop and implement a Self-care plan or longer term to work toward overall better mental health within our membership site or other programs.
About The Author:
Dr. Nikki LeToya White MSEd-TL, Ph.D. RHN is the founder, director, and full-time board-certified trauma-informed nutritionist, folk herbalist, and wellness consultant at Spiced Life Conversation Art Wellness Studio and Botanica. She created Spiced Life Conversation, LLC Art Wellness Studio, and Botanica to provide the Metro Atlanta area with counseling and coaching services where clients are carefully matched with the right program for healing abandonment and childhood emotional neglect trauma that cause codependency, emotional eating, financial stress, and imposter syndrome as it relates to the fear of success and being abandon. We help you begin your emotional healing journey with ease. Recently, we have expanded to include an online membership site so we now provide support to people living all over the world. All of our recovery coaches provide at least one evidence-based treatment to assist in your recovery. Dr. White is a big proponent of self-care and helping people live a fulfilling life! She has been in full remission with both codependency and emotional binge eating disorder since 2016. In living a life in recovery from sugar addiction. I love my low-sugar balanced lifestyle.
Dr. Nikki LeToya White