Trauma & Loss
Mental Health Problems
If you’ve had a traumatic experience, you may be struggling with disturbing emotions, frightening memories or a sense that something bad is going to happen. You might also feel numb, disconnected and unable to trust others.
Emotional trauma results from extremely stressful events that shatter your sense of security, leaving you feeling helpless and vulnerable.
Traumatic events often threaten your life or safety, but any situation that leaves you feeling vulnerable and overwhelmed can traumatize you, even if you are not physically harmed. These events may be one-time occurrences, such as a natural disaster or violent attack. Sometimes the trauma is caused by ongoing, chronic stress, such as extended unemployment or struggling with cancer.
Some risk factors make people more susceptible to trauma- especially those who are under stress or have recently suffered a string of losses. If you’ve experienced childhood trauma—such as serious illness, separation from a parent or sexual or physical abuse—you are at increased risk for trauma as an adult.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an outcome of psychological trauma. This can happen when someone has witnessed or experienced a traumatic event that involved actual or threatened death or serious injury, or a threat to his or her own physical integrity. In PTSD, the person responds with intense fear, helplessness or horror. (Children may respond with disorganized or agitated behavior.)
People with PTSD may re-experience the trauma through flashbacks or recurring nightmares. They may avoid people, places or things that remind them of the stressful event.
People with PTSD may also experience some of these symptoms:
- Efforts to avoid the thoughts, feelings, places or people associated with the trauma
- Inability to recall an important aspect of the trauma
- Marked decrease in interest in significant activities
- Feeling estranged from others
- Unable to love or have other feelings
- Feelings of doom, i.e., life will be short
- Difficulty falling asleep
- Outbursts of anger
- Difficulty concentrating
- Feeling overanxious
- Exaggerated startle response
In PTSD, symptoms can occur as late as six months after the traumatic event. In acute stress disorder, many of the symptoms are the same but they are experienced within four weeks of the trauma.
Dealing with Grief, Trauma & Loss?
Signs You Need Help
After someone has experienced trauma, they may react with shock, denial, anger, guilt, shame, sadness or confusion. They may withdraw from others or feel anxious and fearful. Physically, they may have trouble sleeping or have nightmares, become easily startled, feel tired, have muscle aches, or feel on edge.
These symptoms may last from a few days to a few months after the traumatic event. It is important to remember that these are NORMAL reactions to an ABNORMAL event.
In PTSD, symptoms can occur as late as six months after the traumatic event.
Healing from the trauma takes time, and not everyone recovers at the same pace. Experts say it’s time to seek professional help when you:
- Have trouble functioning at home or work
- Experience severe anxiety, fear or depression
- Are unable to form close relationships
- Have terrifying memories, flashbacks or nightmares
- Avoid more things that remind you of the trauma
- Feel numb or disconnected from others
- Use drugs or alcohol to feel better.
Working through trauma can be scary and painful. As you learn to heal, you may temporarily feel a little worse before you feel better. Guided by a compassionate and competent therapist, you can process feelings and memories related to the trauma and learn how to handle overpowering emotions. C4 therapists may utilize some specific therapies to help people heal from trauma. Trauma-related therapy, offered individually and in groups, recognizes the trauma as the central psychological event. Cognitive behavioral therapy helps you process and evaluate your thoughts and feelings about the event. Some C4 therapists are trained in Eye Movement Rapid Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), a form of psychotherapy which helps process distressing memories. In all cases, your C4 therapist will work with you to determine what kind therapy is the best fit for you. People who have experienced sexual assault may be referred to C4’s Peterson location, which offers individual and group counseling to help survivors recover. For information on C4 services, or to set up an appointment, call 773.769.0205.