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Trauma is often associated with the feeling of helplessness and powerlessness that one experiences during a traumatic event. Trauma can manifest in different ways, and its signs can often go unnoticed, making it challenging to identify and deal with. Identifying the signs of trauma response is crucial in addressing these issues and providing the necessary support and resources to manage the challenges in day-to-day life. In this article, we will talk about 13 signs of trauma response and give you some tips to help you cope.

Hyperarousal

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This is a typical trauma response where the survivor may experience high levels of anxiety, restlessness, irritability, difficulty sleeping, and a constant sense of danger. To cope with this symptom, try to practice relaxation techniques like deep breathing exercises, meditation, or yoga. Individuals experiencing hyperarousal may feel constantly on edge, anxious, and excessively alert. This heightened state of arousal can manifest in several ways.

Numbness

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This is a hallmark sign of trauma response, where the survivor feels emotionally detached and disconnected from reality. Talk to your therapist to help you understand and deal with this feeling. Numbness can cause individuals to feel emotionally numb, as though they are unable to experience or express their emotions. This can be a protective mechanism to shield them from the overwhelming and distressing emotions associated with the traumatic experience.

Intrusive Thoughts and Memories

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Recurrent and involuntary memories, flashbacks, or nightmares of a traumatic event are common for trauma survivors. Try to anchor yourself in the present moment by focusing on your surroundings or the things you love. Trauma survivors may experience recurrent and distressing memories of the traumatic event. Various cues can trigger these memories, and they often feel as vivid and distressing as if the event were happening again.

Avoidance

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This is a coping mechanism where individuals try to avoid people or situations that trigger their trauma. It involves consciously or unconsciously avoiding situations, people, places, or thoughts that remind them of the traumatic experience. This behavior often backfires, so it’s important to challenge yourself to confront these triggers and partner with a support group or therapist. Some individuals may try to numb their feelings, leading to emotional detachment or blunting of emotional responses.

Panic attacks

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A panic attack is characterized by intense fear, heart palpitations, and sweating. Panic attacks are intense episodes of fear or extreme anxiety that can be overwhelming. Individuals may feel like they are in extreme danger, even if there is no apparent threat. Panic attacks usually peak within a few minutes but can feel much longer. They may leave individuals feeling exhausted and emotionally drained. Try to stay calm when it happens by breathing in slowly and breathing out slowly; remind yourself that it will pass.

Hypervigilance

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It is an intense and excessive awareness of one’s surroundings, which is common in people who have experienced trauma. Over time, this can lead to exhaustion and burnout. Hypervigilance can be a debilitating symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and can significantly impact an individual’s daily life. People with hypervigilance often find it challenging to relax or let their guard down. They may feel as though they need to be on constant alert. Ensure you take breaks throughout your day and focus on deep relaxation techniques.

Anger and Irritability

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Trauma can often lead to feelings of anger and irritability, which may seem disproportionate to the present situation. Ensure you don’t give in to impulsiveness, which can lead to further trauma. People may find themselves overreacting to minor stressors or triggers. They might become angry or irritable in situations that others might perceive as non-threatening. Channel your emotions into activities you enjoy, like painting, drawing, or playing sports.

Shame and Guilt

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Survivors of trauma often experience intense feelings of guilt and shame, which may lead to self-isolation. It’s crucial to acknowledge these feelings and remind yourself that it wasn’t your fault. Dealing with shame and guilt after trauma can be incredibly challenging. It’s essential to remember that these emotions are normal reactions to traumatic experiences. Seeking therapy and talking about these feelings can be a vital step towards healing. Reassure yourself of your worth by practicing self-love and care.

Depression

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Trauma can lead to depression, great sadness, and hopelessness. To cope with depression, try finding activities you enjoy and take them up. Post-traumatic depression is a common struggle. It’s crucial to seek professional help, as therapy and, in some cases, medication can make a significant difference in managing and overcoming depression. Get social support from friends or family members. Seek therapy before it gets worse.

Substance Abuse

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Substance abuse is a common response to trauma. Avoid dependency on substances to manage trauma. Turning to substances to cope with trauma is a harmful path. Seeking support from addiction specialists and attending support groups can aid in breaking this cycle and finding healthier ways to cope. Talk to a therapist to help you deal with your emotions instead of turning to drugs or alcohol.

Physical Symptoms

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Trauma often manifests in physical symptoms. Headaches, gastrointestinal distress, muscle tension, and fatigue are common physical symptoms of trauma response. Ensure you take care of yourself, get enough sleep, and eat healthy foods.  It’s advisable to consult with a healthcare professional to address and manage these symptoms, as they can affect one’s overall well-being. Talk to your doctor if the symptoms persist.

Disassociation

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This is a coping mechanism where the survivor emotionally disconnects themselves from reality as a way to cope with traumatic experiences. You may feel disconnected from your body or have an out-of-body experience. Therapy, especially approaches like EMDR, can help individuals reintegrate their experiences and regain a sense of self.

Insomnia

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Trauma can disrupt sleep patterns. Being unable to fall asleep or stay asleep is a typical response to trauma. Try to maintain a comfortable sleep environment, avoiding stimulants close to bedtime and engaging in relaxation activities before bedtime.  Creating a bedtime routine, practicing relaxation techniques, and consulting a sleep specialist if needed can help in addressing insomnia after trauma.

Conclusion

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Trauma can affect anyone, and the signs of trauma response can be different for everyone. Identifying and understanding the signs of trauma response can be the first step in addressing a traumatic event’s challenges. Seeking professional help and social support can also aid in the recovery process. It’s essential to understand that healing from trauma takes time, and there is no quick solution. Through patience, understanding, and compassion, survivors of trauma can find their way to healing and resilience.

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