5 Signs You’re Dealing With Psychological Trauma

Disclaimer. This article is for educational purposes. Please, do not self-diagnose. If you suspect that you or someone you know suffers from PTSD, seek a mental health professional.

Traumatic events can happen to everyone. It’s common. Though society typically believes men are more likely to be affected by trauma, it affects men and women almost the same. According to the National Center for PTSD, 7-8% of the U.S. population will have PTSD at some point in their lives. Extreme grief or insecurity, chronic stress, violence, abuse, war, and living through natural disasters are causes of psychological distress.   

Trauma is not a disorder. It is an emotional response to an unexpected and terrible event where you felt that your physical safety and well-being was at risk. Following a traumatic event, you may experience flashbacks, trouble relating to others, a new sensitivity to loud sounds, difficulty sleeping, and difficulty enjoying things you once liked. Trauma also can make you act differently. Some engage in riskier behavior. Others become more cautious and may develop phobias (find source).

Some symptoms of psychological trauma are more subtle than you think.

  • Anxiety

Constant flashbacks and fear surrounding a traumatic event can cause anxiety. Studies show that trauma makes you vulnerable to developing other psychiatric disorders. The emotions and stress can become overwhelming. You might feel out of control or start to think that people in your life are taking up too much time or attention. 

It is easy to get wrapped up in the emotions a traumatic event brings. 

  • Getting startled easily.

The link between your mind and body is surprising. When you experience psychological distress or trauma, your body reacts physically. One way is through sensitivity. Following a traumatic event, you may be increasingly sensitive to your surroundings. The reason for this can be due to stress caused by trauma. Your brain is anticipating danger; hence it sends signals to your brain to release cortisol and adrenaline, preparing you for fight or flight. 

  • Guilt, shame, or self-blame

Unnecessary or untraceable guilt or shame can be another symptom of psychological trauma. These feelings can arise from the actual experience or from the stigma surrounding the event you endured. If death happened during the event, you might feel the survivor’s remorse. Guilt and shame can prevent you from getting treatment. 

  • Aches and pain

Another physical manifestation of psychological trauma is aches and pains. The Institute for Chronic Pain states that at least 60% of arthritis patients report experiencing trauma at one point in their lives. This symptom is usually an indicator of other underlying and consequential emotional distress. Pain is your body’s way of warning you.  

Pain and trauma go hand in hand– trauma causes pain, and pain causes trauma. A possible reason for this link has to do with the fact that the neurotransmitters responsible for regulating emotional responses also regulate pain. Another reason could be that our nervous system becomes overly active due to chronic stress or emotional distress, which eventually causes central pain sensitization

If you experience chronic pain due to psychological trauma, seek the help of a medical professional for treatment. 

  • Disconnected or daydreaming

Another sign of psychological trauma is disconnectedness. This can manifest itself as emotional numbness or maladaptive daydreaming. Though these two symptoms seem different, both are a disconnection from reality that serve as coping mechanisms. It’s your mind’s way of creating a safe space when there isn’t one available. 

Though neither manifestations seem harmful, both further isolate you from people and drive you deeper into loneliness. You may be reluctant to speak about the trauma you have experienced. It’s fine. You do not have to talk about it if you are not ready. However, refusing to face what you have through can make you feel different from others and lead you to withdraw socially. As a result, your relationships might suffer. When you are ready and at your own pace, speak to a professional. Speaking to a therapist might make you more willing to talk to others. 

Trauma is common and can lead to PTSD/ C-PTSD, but most people, luckily, develop resilience. They learn, with the help of others, to move past it. 

Some steps you can take to help you cope with psychological trauma are mediation, exercise, and participating in group activities. If your symptoms become unmanageable, consult with a healthcare professional. A therapist might introduce CBT therapy to arm you with techniques to fight negative disruptive thoughts. 

Hope this article has been helpful.

Take care!

Additional Sources: 

D’arcy-Sharpe, Ann-Marie. How Is Psychological Trauma Linked to Chronic Pain?31 Aug. 2020, www.pathways.health/how-is-psychological-trauma-linked-to-chronic-pain/. 

Laugharne, Jonathan et al. “Role of psychological trauma in the cause and treatment of anxiety and depressive disorders.” Current opinion in psychiatry vol. 23,1 (2010): 25-9. doi:10.1097/YCO.0b013e3283345dc5

Pagán, Camille Noe, and Smitha Bhandari . The Emotional Effects of Trauma. 29 Nov. 2018, www.webmd.com/mental-health/emotional-trauma-18/emotional-trauma-aftermath. 

Robinson, Lawrence. Emotional and Psychological Trauma. Feb. 2020, www.helpguide.org/articles/ptsd-trauma/coping-with-emotional-and-psychological-trauma.html. 

Tapu, Maria. Maladaptive Daydreaming. Dec. 2016, thepsychologist.bps.org.uk/volume-29/december-2016/maladaptive-daydreaming. 

Tull, Matthew. Exaggerated Fear of Danger May Be Hypervigilance in PTSD. 27 July 2020, www.verywellmind.com/hypervigilance-2797363. 

4 Subtle Signs of Trauma: When You’re Dealing with More Than You Think. 18 Feb. 2019, westlakehoustoncounseling.com/4-subtle-signs-of-trauma-when-youre-dealing-with-more-than-you-think/. 

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