Emotional Trauma Signs and Symptoms
Emotional trauma, also known as psychological trauma, is a response to an overwhelming event or series of events. Signs of emotional trauma can vary from person to person, and they may not always be immediately apparent. Moreover, unless treated, the traumatic event can have a lasting impact on an individual’s emotional well-being.
As a life coach for entrepreneurs, I want to support your mental health and well-being. As such, I want to alert you to behavior that may harm your mindset and/or your business.
In this article, we will discuss some signs that you or someone you know may have been affected by trauma.
Origins of Trauma
Regardless of whether your traumatic incident happened last week or last decade, trauma always links back to your relationship with your parents or parental figures. You may wonder how this can be possible. Well, your parents taught you, through teaching or observation, how to communicate with yourself and other people.
If you did not learn healthy intrapersonal communication techniques, it sets you up perfectly for abuse or mistreatment from your boss, co-workers, classmates, teachers, romantic partners, friends, or abusive family members. Alternatively, you may have become used to numbing yourself to signs of danger in a verbal or physical environment.
If you are interested in understanding the impact of parenting and trauma, then the following books are recommended: Conversational Rape by Dr. Patricia Allen, and Parenting from the Inside Out by Dan Siegel and Mary Hartzell.
Next, let’s talk about signs of emotional trauma.
Signs of Emotional Trauma
Flashbacks or Intrusive Memories
All of sudden I was transported back into my father’s house. I could smell the moldy air and hear the endless dripping of water from my father house. It was only a matter of time before I heard his screams.
Intrusive memories are rattling and uncomfortable, to put it mildly. You can can be in a perfectly good mood when a stimuli (sight, sound, smell, taste or touch) can impact your subconscious and take you to a horrible time and place. You may feel as though they are experiencing the trauma all over again.
As soon as I graduated high school, I got the hell away from my hometown. Other than me, ain’t nothing good that came from that place.
If you are avoiding certain places, people, or activities with a passion, that is a sign that you experienced a traumatic event.
*while attending a wedding* I don’t get why people would want to get married.
Your psyche has repressed painful feelings or events to the point where you have difficulty appropriately processing the feelings of yourself or others. Unfortunately, this defense mechanism limits your ability to have empathy and experience positive feelings.
Stop. Don’t touch me!
This is especially true for victims of chronic sexual or physical abuse. You were victimized so much that you have difficulty receiving any form of protective touch. On the opposite side, those who were neglected from physical touch may also experience hyper-arousal.
If you have an overactive vagus nerve, you may feel overly sensitive to touch, easily startled, or have difficulty sleeping.
Anxiety and Fear
Why bother trying? Nothing I do ends well.
Anxiety and fear rather crippling. You already decide to quit before you even start. The reason because you experience excessive worry, fear, or panic attacks. This stress response prevents you from seeing yourself or your situation accurately.
None of sh*t is going to work. Now or ever.
Anxiety and fear, sent to its terminal point turn into depression. This is when you are invaded with feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or a lack of interest in activities they used to enjoy.
Important note: Depression can be linked to chemical imbalances. The image below shows the various types of depression.
Changes in self identity
I know I have a medical degree, but I just feel like an idiot.
When you are violated or forced into an unfamiliar situation, your sense of identity and worth can be torn apart. This is beyond a lack of self-esteem or confidence; this is about not understanding your sense of value and purpose. A traumatized person can behave in self-defeating behavior because they truly do not believe they are worthy of living.
Feeling Guilty or Ashamed
It was my fault.
When you don’t understand a situation or put it into proper context, you may default to personalization – a cognitive distortion. Instead of naming the abuser or external factors, you may blame yourself for the traumatic event. This can cause deep feelings of shame and self-pity when stimuli remind you of the past trauma.
Difficulty connecting with others
Nobody wants me around.
When you feel shame-based anxiety, spending time with others in social activities is the last thing you would want to do. A person with trauma symptoms instinctively withdraws from social interactions and isolates themselves from others.
My stomach is all in a knot right now.
Experiencing physical symptoms such as headaches, stomachaches, or fatigue? This may be linked to emotional trauma. I highly recommend books that connect stress response and trauma. They include:
Traumatized people are intensely preoccupied with oneself.— Denise Lee (@DeniseGLee) August 9, 2023
And it is understandable - THEY FEEL WOUNDED.
Imagine I took a mirror and smashed it on the ground, picked it up and said, "take a look at yourself" and then "use this mirror to see the world around you."
Are you feeling a lack of focus and indecisiveness in your daily routine? It’s an issue that can impact various aspects of your life, like work and leisure time. When struggling to focus or make decisions, you might find that your productivity is compromised. This can lead to mistakes and missed opportunities at work, potentially damaging your professional reputation and growth.
On the other hand, when faced with decisions in your personal life, this inability to make choices can cause missed opportunities to spend quality time with friends or family members. Finding yourself struggling in these areas can be disheartening and leave you feeling defeated.
In the next section, we will talk about talk about two tales of how emotional trauma can impact you years later.
Trauma Tale 1: Inability to Relate in Healthy Romantic Relationships
Emotional trauma is real and can manifest in many ways, including the inability to relate to others in romantic and non-romantic contexts.
For example, consider Sandy, a young girl who grew up in a dysfunctional and painful single-parent home. Sandy learned that she would only receive attention if she performed well. As Sandy matured, she received lots of attention from boys for her physical appearance.
If Sandy lacks healthy emotional boundaries and self-worth, which should have been taught in a stable home environment, she may engage in risky sexual behaviors. If she gets pregnant at a young age, the experience can be traumatic.
As a result, Sandy may become emotionally handicapped as an adult. If she still suffers from depression, shame, and unresolved issues, Sandy may unconsciously pass these feelings on to her daughter.
This cycle can continue for multiple generations, with Sandy’s daughter unconsciously replicating the same shame-based tendencies as her mother.
Trauma Tale 2: Disturbing Dreams
Even though I have been on my own recovery journey for over twenty-five years and have been helping others heal professionally for seven years, there are still bits and pieces that remind me that the healing process is always ongoing.
I am a big believer in dreams and their interpretation. Carl Jung, the psychologist, said that “The dream world is the real world,” a notion that I firmly believe in.
Our mind comprises two parts: the unconscious and conscious, with 90% of our thoughts stuck in the unconscious, including those in the collective unconscious.
That’s a lot of thoughts we aren’t even aware of. Some ways of accessing these thoughts include dreams, meditation, breath work, and prayer.
Recently, I had a series of dreams where my mind kept replaying distorted versions of my past trauma. Each morning, I sat and thought about each scene.
Carefully reviewing how my experiences today reminded me of the past, I realized that my mind still has unfinished business it wants to resolve.
Therefore, even if you think it’s over, and you’re fine, there may still be parts that trouble you. It truly is like peeling back an onion.
Below is a image that summarizes the signs of emotional trauma.
How to heal from a traumatic event
Healing from trauma is a choice. You can choose to live life with these symptoms or get the help you know you need. It is important to note that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. However, here are some of the many solutions that can help you.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
EMDR was created by Francine Shapiro, who also wrote the book “Getting Past Your Past”.
The therapy involves a structured eight-phase approach that aims to help individuals process distressing memories and reduce the emotional charge associated with them. One of the distinctive features of EMDR is the use of bilateral stimulation, which can involve rapid side-to-side eye movements, tapping, or auditory cues. This bilateral stimulation is thought to mimic the rapid eye movement (REM) phase of sleep during which the brain processes and integrates emotional experiences.
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation
It is a non-invasive medical procedure that involves the use of magnetic fields to stimulate specific areas of the brain. TMS is primarily used as a therapeutic treatment for certain mental health conditions, particularly major depressive disorder that has not responded well to traditional treatments like medication or psychotherapy.
Trauma-informed coaching or therapy involves talking about your past to help desensitize yourself from trauma-related symptoms. This work can be emotive (feeling) or cognitive (thinking) based. I encourage you to read this article to evaluate the pros and cons of each method.
Next, I will share with you my final thoughts about emotional trauma.
Final Thoughts about Emotional Trauma
It’s important to note that not everyone who experiences a traumatic event will necessarily show all of these signs, and some individuals may cope with trauma in different ways.
If you or someone you know is experiencing acute emotional trauma, it’s essential to seek support from a mental health professional. As explained earlier, trauma can be effectively addressed through therapy and other therapeutic approaches.
Once you have moved past this initial emotional work with a licensed mental health care provider, consider working with me to build on your professional and personal goals.
DISCLAIMER: THIS ARTICLE DOES NOT PROVIDE MENTAL HEALTH ADVICE
The information in this article is for informational purposes only. No material in this article or website is to be a substitute for professional medical and/or mental health advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you read from me or anyone else online.
Also, this article is not designed to diagnose or treat you or anyone with a suspected mental health illness. Please, if you need help, seek appropriate help from a lawyer, health care provider or law enforcement officer.