Tag Archives: trauma

5 Signs That You May Be Minimizing Trauma

trauma

We all have a tendency to minimize traumatic events. We tell ourselves, “That’s in the past. I should be over that by now.” It’s certainly a healthy response to want to let go and move on. But trauma doesn’t typically resolve on its own, and eventually our bodies and minds will let us know when something needs to be addressed.

“No one wants to say ‘I’ve been traumatized,’” says Robbie Bogard, Director of Integrative and Group Services at Yellowbrick. “You may not define your symptoms as trauma-related. You just know something is wrong.”

Ironically, one of the reasons trauma becomes minimized is that there is such a broad variety of experiences that qualify as traumatic. Serious physical injury is one obvious cause of trauma, but any event that leaves you feeling frightened, alone and interferes with your life going forward can be considered traumatic. It can be the result of a powerful one-time event, or come from a series of unpleasant experiences that leads to long-term problems, such as growing up with an alcoholic parent, being shamed about being overweight, being date raped or being in an abusive relationship, or many other scenarios.

Traumatic experiences overwhelm the mind and body’s ability to integrate the experience into memory and store it as you would other life experiences. For that reason, it keeps showing up in many ways, including those described below.

So how do you know if you are suffering from something you’ve told yourself was “no big deal”?

Signs You’ve Experienced Trauma

  1. You feel overwhelmed
    Did something happen unexpectedly? Were you unprepared for it? Did you feel helpless to prevent it? Do you feel you can’t talk to anyone about it because no one else can understand? Feeling that you have no control over your life or no one to turn to is a sign of trauma.
  1. You have flashbacks
    Are you being triggered by certain sights, sounds, or smells that remind you of the incident? Is your life being interrupted by intrusive symptoms, whether in the form of upsetting images, memories, nightmares, crying, or sudden anger? Any strong emotional or physical reaction that doesn’t seem to be connected to the present situation can be the result of a buried trauma.
  1. You often “space out”
    Feeling numb or having flat emotions is a common result of trauma. Maybe you have difficulty staying present, or find yourself disconnecting from others. This desire to isolate or zone out could mean that you haven’t processed a painful memory.
  1. You overreact or respond inappropriately
    Do you startle easily? Does the slightest stress send you into panic mode? Bogard calls this a “hyper-aroused response” and says it’s another sign that you may be minimizing a trauma.
  1. You feel ashamed
    Do you sometimes feel that you can’t do anything right? Do you find yourself thinking, “If only I hadn’t done that, this never would have happened”? One of the most common types of trauma is interpersonal trauma, which includes physical or sexual abuse, or bullying. Shame plays a big part in this kind of trauma, as well as a tendency to blame yourself.

These five signs of trauma can be your mind know you have important emotions that need to be processed. If you’ve been denying or ignoring any of them, know that there are steps you can take to begin to truly move past trauma.

Steps to Recover From Trauma

  • Seek out someone who is experienced in helping others.
  • Tell a trusted friend.
  • Join a group for survivors of trauma.

Bogard says that the goal is to be supported as you connect your feelings to your memories. Integrating the two will allow you to release self-blame, sadness, anger, and fear. You’ll minimize not the trauma itself, but the ability it has to affect your life.

For more information on Yellowbrick’s trauma recovery treatment, click here.

Sexual Assault on College Campuses: A major cause for mental health problems

Sexual assault

A college student goes to a party. She’s drinking, hanging out with her friends, flirting with a cute guy. They go back to her dorm room and start kissing. Then the guy forces her to have sex, even though she doesn’t want to, leaving the young woman feeling immense amounts of fear, anxiety and shame.

Though this might sound like a typical scenario, it is actually a crime, and it’s one that can leave deep emotional scars on victims for years to come.

According to a 2015 survey from the Association of American Universities, 27.2 percent of all college students — more than one in four — experience unwanted sexual contact, from kissing to touching to actual intercourse. And although incidents are more common among women, men can also be victims of sexual assault.

Robbie Bogard, Director of Integrative and Group Services at Yellowbrick, says these kind of incidents can have a serious impact on college students’ mental health. After a sexual assault, many students suffer from symptoms of PTSD, which include having intrusive memories of the event, mood instability, feeling fearful, and being triggered by certain sights, sounds and smells that remind them of the incident. They can be hyper anxious or feel numb or disconnected from their feelings altogether.

“There can be a lot of shame and self-blame. That’s very common,” Bogard says.

Bogard says college students often blame themselves for what happened, thinking if only they hadn’t been drinking, or hadn’t been friendly with the person, or if they had fought back more it wouldn’t have happened.

“It’s important for people to know that you can make yourself vulnerable to sexual assault, but you’re never responsible for other people’s behavior,” Bogard says.

Bogard says students also feel shame if they were sexually aroused by the incident, even if it was unwanted, and these mixed emotions can cause them to have increased shame about their bodies.

Unfortunately, the repercussions of sexual assault aren’t short-lived. Bogard says sexual assault may cause some students to avoid dating or being in a situation with someone of the opposite sex for years to come. Others may actually become more promiscuous to try to prove to themselves that they have power over their own bodies.

Someone who is assaulted is at greater risk of using alcohol or drugs more heavily to numb their feelings, leading to increased chance of substance abuse.

Luckily, women who report the incident and seek mental health treatment quickly have a better chance of overcoming these emotional roadblocks.

Here are some of Bogard’s tips for college students who have experienced a sexual assault:

  1. Trust Your Own Experience
    Often, women tell themselves that what happened wasn’t a big deal or that it wasn’t serious enough to tell someone about. Bogard says don’t listen to your doubts. “Trust your own experience,” she says. “If you feel that it wasn’t right, listen to that.”
  2. Tell Someone You Trust
    Bogard says telling someone about what happened is key. She suggests going to a campus counselor, women’s center, or even a resident assistant. Keeping it a secret will only prolong your suffering.
  3. Get Mental Health Treatment
    Bogard says it’s essential that students seek out mental health treatment to process the complex emotions that come from sexual assault and to reduce feelings of shame. And, she says, the earlier you get help, the better.
  4. Understand That It’s Not Your Fault
    Remember, no matter what you had to drink, what you were wearing, or what you didn’t say, sexual assault is never your fault.
  5. Get Supported Exposure To Things You Want to Avoid
    If the thought of going on a date or walking to a certain part of campus fills you with dread, get friends to come with you as you experience these things. By having new, positive experiences, you can learn to overcome old triggers.

The Support Young Men Need (But Might Not Admit) When Impacted by Trauma

young man mental health, source: shutterstock

Emerging adult men need help sorting through emotions after experiencing trauma, whether they will admit to it or not. By learning about the symptoms young men exhibit after a traumatic event and the personal struggles involved in moving forward, parents will be able to identify if the healing process would be complimented by seeking professional support.

Trauma and its impacts

Trauma can be defined as an occurrence, or series of events, in which the integrity of life is threatened.  Trauma may involve dangers to physical or emotional health, and may leave a lasting impact on its victim. Examples of trauma include acts of violence, like sexual assault or physical attack, or involvement in a life-changing event, like a serious accident or natural disaster. Continue reading The Support Young Men Need (But Might Not Admit) When Impacted by Trauma

Peer Relationships & Loss: Tragedy

Yellowbrick peer relationships and loss - photo source: Shutterstock

Peer relationships play an integral role as young adults develop their sense of self. When tragedy strikes, like physical, emotional, mental, or sexual trauma, peer relationships tend to shift, transforming the social and personal development of young adults.  Social, emotional, and peer functioning may be disrupted to a point that professional help is needed to get back on track.

Healthy Peer Relationships Promote Self-Discovery

In healthy relationships, peers equally exchange constructive criticism, develop positive norms and values, and help each other in times of need. Young adults invest in peer relationships as a way to learn about themselves, enable their interests, and secure their emerging adult identities.  Richer, closer relationships shape young adults’ personal constructs, influencing decisions, drives, and self-identity.

For example, the captain of the college football team clearly envisions his future playing professionally with encouragement from his teammates. Driven by his ultimate goal, he lives, breathes, and dreams football with friends who keep him challenged on the field.  As the captain of the team, his peers look up to him with respect and he is admired across campus.  He feels secure in his role as a leader and confident in his choices, collaborating with peers who reinforce his decisions and interests.

Tragedy Changes Peer Relationships and Sense of Self

Unexpected tragedy may seem to drastically alter all aspects young adult’s world.   Usually, peers rely on each other for support. Yet, in the face of tragedy, peers may not have the experience, maturity, availability, or outlets to sustain the relationship. Tragedy stirs up strong emotions including worry, fear, or guilt. Peers may not know what to say or do for a friend in need.  Some cannot manage the added stress and choose to distance themselves from the relationship.  Peers’ reactions may not live up to the expectations of those directly impacted by tragedy. Young adults impacted by tragedy may treat peers poorly, displacing feelings of anger, distress, and rage on those who don’t deserve it.  Tragedy often results in severed relationships. When peer relationships diverge, the social development of young adults may digress.

Tragedy often shakes a young adult’s self-experience, incurring feelings of victimization and lack of identity.  With intense emotions and possible physical set-backs, young adults suffering tragedy may have a hard time reestablishing themselves, their interests, and goals in life.  The behavior of young adults, post-tragedy, may convert to impulsive or risky as unhealthy coping styles replace healthy habits.

What happens to the captain of the team when he sustains a serious injury, leaving him unable to pursue his football dreams? Perhaps his teammates don’t have the time to visit him as the practice schedule remains demanding. When they finally stop by, his peers have no idea how to respond as they watch their captain cry.  Or, the campus forgets his existence as the next quarterback in line quickly replaces him as captain.

His sense of self shattered when his focus shifted to cope with tragedy, his aspirations taken away, he may have no clue how to move forward and falls into a serious state of depression.  He may live in isolation, unable to sustain peer relationships.

Welcoming Professional Help

When tragedy impairs social, emotional, and peer functioning, young adults benefit from welcoming professional help from doctors, counselors, and psychologists. The group of clinicians at the Trauma Recovery Program at Yellowbrick, addresses the complex impact of tragedy by practicing a multi-faceted approach aimed to re-connect the broken constructs as a result of tragedy. Young adults engaging in group therapy find their start in rebuilding peer relationships. Art and yoga therapy intertwine to deliver mindfulness and peace to the tragedy, while trauma education strengthens young adults’ resiliency.

Working through deep emotions caused by tragedy and regaining personal identity following a traumatic occurrence should be supported by family, friends, and a network of resources.  When young adults secure help in processing the impact of tragedy, their outcomes improve. Young adults may find the outlets to reestablish themselves, and return to healthy social development with strong peer relationships.