When most folks think of psychological trauma, often what comes to mind is a dangerous or life-threatening event or experience, such as a serious car accident, violence, war, assault, physical abuse or natural disasters (sometimes called “Big T” traumas).
While the former are indeed traumatic, there also more pervasive, on-going traumas that can have just as great of an impact on someone’s well-being if accumulated over time. These are sometimes called “little T” traumas. “Little T” traumas can be childhood emotional abuse or neglect, or being in an emotionally abusive relationship as an adult. Another form of a “little T” might be big changes or difficulties that are distressing. Some examples are the death of a loved one, loss of a job, stress from work, financial problems, breakups, etc. Although these situations are not dangerous, when combined with other “little Ts” or “big Ts” they can cause problems to everyday functioning and make it difficult to deal with.
Impact of trauma
These experiences, whether they are “big Ts” or “little Ts,” can have a lasting effect on one’s beliefs about self, ability to tolerate emotions, sense of safety, connection with one’s body, reaction to external stimuli (lights, sounds, smells, tastes, other’s behaviors), and relationships with others.
Additionally, there might be other symptoms you are facing or ways it affects your functioning and life. These can show up in some or all of the following ways:
- anger or irritability
- difficulty concentrating
- flashbacks (“re-experiencing” a memory)
- sleep difficulties
- “spacing out” or loss of time
- negative beliefs about the self (I am broken, I don’t matter, it’s my fault, I’m dirty, I’m not good enough)
- negative beliefs about the world (the world is unsafe and scary, people are untrustworthy, it’s not fair).
- body aches
- digestive problems
- issues with appetite
- hyper-vigilance (super-aware/cautious of surroundings or feeling “on-guard”),
- difficulty managing emotions (angry outbursts, crying spells, anxiety attacks)
- startling easily
- being too close or too distant in relationships
- isolation and/or avoidance
What can you do if you have trauma?
Therapy can help if you recognize that you may have experienced trauma and find it is affecting you. Seek out a therapist who has expertise in trauma to learn more about its impact on you and how to manage the symptoms you may be experiencing (more on that at another time) and heal from these incidents. Providing trauma-informed treatment to adults, including Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing(EMDR), is my specialty; contact me today to get started in your healing process.