I was having a talk with friend about how the perception of trauma has changed. She was thinking of her grandfather, who even now sits in a cloud of his own thoughts and does not engage much with his eight children and nearly twenty grandchildren. The explanation she was given was always the same, “You know he never quite got over the war.”
Today the idea of shell shock is outdated, and we know that a traumatic experience of any kind can have real power. The trouble is, it can’t be seen like a wound or a scar. So how do you know if you should seek help for it?
There are several risk factors for trauma that often go overlooked. For example, if the trauma occurred in childhood it not only leaves a deeper trace, it also increases the risk of being susceptible to traumatic stress as an adult. Some violent natural occurrences like earthquakes, floods, or tornadoes can cause traumatic stress. A bad breakup or even what might seem like a normal physical injury might bring out these overwhelming and unpredictable emotions that leave you feeling stuck and drained.
Who’s at risk? Again, children, or those who had a traumatic experience as a child are particularly at risk. Also at risk are those who are already under a great deal of stress, or whose stressful experience is a repeated one.
What will I feel like? Many who have suffered from PTSD and similar stress issues speak of feeling empty, numb, or unable to cope with the normal ups and downs of life. You may also seem to be re-living the traumatic event day after day. Insomnia is also a common side effect.
The most important thing is not to ignore how you feel. You should also communicate, whether that’s to a diary, a pet, a family member or a friend. Step by step develop a routine of healthy behaviors, mindful of what makes you feel upset and uncomfortable and what makes you feel relaxed and safe.