With the rise of social media, trauma has become a widely talked-about topic over the past several years. It seems that everyone is seeking to understand trauma, how it happens, where it comes from, and how to recover. There are many different types of trauma, and most people will experience at least one traumatic event during the course of their lives. Given that the trauma spectrum is so broad-ranging, people react to and recover from trauma in many different ways.
Traumatic events challenge a person’s sense of safety. Accidents, disasters, and violence (physical, emotional, and verbal) can all result in trauma to an individual and can impact physical, mental, and emotional health in many different ways.
Fear, guilt, anger, and sadness are all common emotional reactions to trauma. The world can feel unsafe and unpredictable. Over time — and if left unresolved — these emotions can lead to symptoms of anxiety, depression, helplessness, exhaustion, and more. An individual might relive upsetting memories, or become easily triggered by specific sounds, images, or events linked to the traumatic event. Often, they can result in sleep disturbance, leading to dependence on alcohol or other drugs as a way to self-medicate.
“Big ‘T’ and little ‘t’ Trauma” is a common way to differentiate between “lesser scale” traumatic events that people often recover from quickly, and “larger scale” traumatic events that can be far more difficult to recover from without professional help.
Little “t” traumas are events that cause significant distress and upset to a person but aren’t considered big “T” trauma. These might include non-life-threatening injuries such as breaking a bone, emotional abuse by a partner or parent, the death of a pet, experiencing bullying or harassment in the workplace, or the breakdown of a romantic relationship and betrayal due to infidelity.
It’s important to understand that everyone experiences stress in different ways. People are capable of very different levels of emotional resilience which has a direct impact on their ability to cope with traumatic events. What you may not consider being a “big deal” might be highly distressing to someone else — and that’s okay. The most important thing to remember when considering little “t” trauma is that the impact of the event on the person is more relevant than the actual event itself.
Big “T” trauma is the reaction to a deeply disturbing — or life-threatening — situation or event. In general, when we think of trauma we usually think of natural disasters (such as earthquakes or tsunamis), war, violent crimes, school shootings, serious car accidents, and the deaths of family members. These are all considered to be “big ‘T’ trauma” events.
There are two different types of big ‘T’ trauma — chronic, and acute. Chronic big ‘T’ trauma is usually the result of repeated ongoing trauma, such as abuse or domestic violence. Acute big T trauma results from a single traumatic incident.
Big ‘T’ trauma often leaves the person feeling powerless, as though they have completely lost control of their lives or their environment. Helplessness is also a common side effect of big ‘T’ trauma. A person suffering from big ‘T’ trauma might also avoid any reminders of the event or any situations that might trigger painful traumatic memories. They often go to extraordinary lengths to avoid these triggers, which has a big impact on how they live their day-to-day life.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a disorder that can develop when a person is unable to recover from experiencing or witnessing a terrifying event. PTSD can last for months or even years and can be triggered by a wide range of different things. These triggers can bring back memories of the traumatic event, and often cause severe emotional and physical reactions.
Symptoms of PTSD can include nightmares and/or flashbacks, avoidance of situations that might cause the person to relive their trauma, heightened reactivity to stimuli (“jumpiness”, overt reactions to unexpected noises, etc.), anxiety, depression, and drug and alcohol addiction.
For a “big T trauma” to be considered PTSD, symptoms must last more than a month and be severe enough to interfere with daily functioning.
There are several effective ways to treat trauma, depending on the severity of the trauma and the length of time the person has been living with their trauma.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is widely acknowledged to be the most effective way to recover from trauma and PTSD. CBT helps people to change their thought patterns in order to influence and manage their emotions and behavioral responses. Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is another common trauma therapy. During EMDR, a therapist will guide the person in reliving their specific trauma while directing their eye movements. EMDR aims to help people process and integrate traumatic memories.
Some therapists might also use alternative body-based techniques to help the mind and the body process trauma. Some of these therapies include somatic experiencing (where a therapist might help a person relive their trauma in a safe space), acupoint stimulation (when the therapist applies pressure to various pressure points around the body to alleviate tension), touch therapies (such as reiki, healing touch, and therapeutic touch therapy)
Medication can also be used to aid trauma recovery, though it’s important to note that medication alone cannot cure trauma or PTSD. That said, medication can be useful in helping a person manage their symptoms, such as anxiety, depression, and sleep disturbances.
Regardless of the method, it is recommended that people seek professional support from a licensed therapist to process and recover from trauma.
There are many ways to treat trauma. Our caring therapists treat trauma for many clients due to many circumstances.. Our Sacramento area counseling practice would be honored to help you recover from trauma! To start trauma therapy, please follow these simple steps:
Contact our counseling office for more information,
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Other Services offered at The Relationship Therapy Center in California:
In addition to trauma therapy, Our Sacramento area counseling clinics located in Roseville and Fair Oaks, CA are pleased to offer a variety of mental health services. Our couples services include: Couples Counseling, Counseling after infidelity, sex therapy, co-parent counseling, family therapy, divorce counseling, intensive couples retreats, and premarital counseling. Our individual therapy services include anxiety treatment, therapy for children, teen therapy, depression treatment, codependency counseling and individual relationship counseling. Our therapists offer online counseling in California to treat a variety of mental health concerns. Please reach out to our Sacramento area therapy office to learn more about the many ways we can help you or your loved ones.