Trauma can permeate everything, including adult relationships, professional life, and overall mental well-being. Although challenging, healing from trauma is always possible with proper support and treatment.
Trauma is the emotional response to a distressing or frightening event.
Traumatic experiences can be singular events, like a car accident, or ongoing, such as an abusive relationship. Witnessing harm to another person can also be highly traumatic. An example of this might be a child living in a house where domestic abuse occurs. Bullying, racism, sexism, and other forms of prejudice might also be traumatising for individuals.
Many people experience traumatic events during their childhood. Also known as adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), these events involve physical harm, abuse, and neglect. The CDC-Kaiser ACE study examined the prevalence of ACEs in adulthood and revealed that one in five people reported three or more traumatic events. The more ACEs people have in childhood, the greater the risk is for substance use disorders, suicide attempts, and domestic abuse.
Symptoms of Trauma
After a traumatic event, people experience distressing symptoms, such as the inability to concentrate and nightmares. This is also known as acute stress disorder, and is often mistaken for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). However, acute stress disorder only lasts around four weeks after a traumatic event, whereas PTSD can last for several months and years.
The symptoms of trauma are extensive, including:
- Heightened anxiety
- Involuntary and intrusive memories about the traumatic event
- Avoidance of thoughts and feelings about the incident
- Unexplained aches and pains
- Hyperarousal and hypervigilance
People can struggle with various mental health conditions, including anxiety and depression after a traumatic event, making daily life difficult to navigate. They can struggle to enjoy events or activities they previously loved, and taking the first steps toward healing can be daunting.
Healing from trauma is not like recovering from a physical injury. Although a traumatic event might have occurred long ago, its effects can linger indefinitely. There is no right or wrong way to process trauma. Remember, everyone’s experiences are different, and so is the healing journey.
The mental stress of trauma can be a lot for people to manage. They may self-medicate to avoid specific memories or feelings, turning to substance abuse, shopping, working, or eating to mask their emotions. This can contribute to additional mental distress and physical health problems.
There are several steps that people can take when healing from trauma, stemming from both self-care and professional treatment.
Trauma can be an incredibly isolating experience. Despite the severity of their symptoms, people often push away their loved ones and deny any need for help, exacerbating feelings of loneliness and vulnerability. Extreme loneliness is recognised as a significant health risk that can lower lifespan and increase the risk of illness.
Although reaching out for help can be daunting, it is incredibly worthwhile. Fostering quality relationships with loved ones enhances mental health and can contribute to better physical health. Reaching out to a healthcare professional for support is a big step, so it can be easier for people to talk to a friend or family member first.
Created by Peter Levine, PhD, somatic experiencing is a body-based approach to healing trauma. Rather than focusing on changing thoughts and behaviours like traditional talk therapies, somatic experiencing releases stress from the body.
Along with the fight-or-flight response, people can also freeze when faced with a traumatic experience. When the body prepares to run or fight off danger, it prepares by increasing heart rate and focus, whereas the freeze response does the opposite. People can remain trapped in the freeze response long after the threat has disappeared, contributing to chronic pain, sleep problems, and mental distress.
Somatic experiencing helps people recognise their bodily sensations and uses tools such as resourcing to help them feel calm and safe. By slowly reintroducing distressing sensations, people release trapped trauma and learn how to manage the symptoms it generates.
There are several self-care techniques to help people manage trauma. Even with professional help, the symptoms can be overwhelming; however, self-care can help mitigate this and provide a healthy outlet to help manage emotional, physical, and mental health.
Learning to manage dissociation, flashbacks, or hyperarousal is a key component of self-care. Grounding techniques can help people to centre themselves when they are overwhelmed by flashbacks or dissociation. It involves using the senses to avoid or manage intense feelings or memories. Walking barefoot and focusing solely on the sensation of the floor or touching something soft, warm, or cold can be grounding and distract people from harmful thoughts.
Self-care also involves basic things such as eating three meals daily, maintaining personal hygiene, and attending therapy appointments. Keeping up with these actions can be challenging when struggling with past trauma, although prioritising self-care can make people feel much better when feeling anxious or depressed.
Trauma affects all aspects of life, even with treatment. Life’s challenges can be overwhelming, and people can struggle to see any hope of recovery. Residential treatment provides a space away from daily life for people to focus solely on healing trauma.
Khiron Clinics offers a range of residential treatment options to help people recover from lifelong trauma. Our clinic provides various therapeutic modalities, including trauma treatment from some of the best trauma specialists in the UK, group sessions, yoga, and mindfulness.
Healing from trauma is not linear, but it is possible with sustained effort and professional trauma treatment.
If you have a client or know of someone struggling with anything you have read in this blog, reach out to us at Khiron Clinics. We believe that we can improve therapeutic outcomes and avoid misdiagnosis by providing an effective residential program and outpatient therapies addressing underlying psychological trauma. Allow us to help you find the path to realistic, long-lasting recovery. For more information, call us today. UK: 020 3811 2575 (24 hours). USA: (866) 801 6184 (24 hours).
 Rico-Uribe LA, Caballero FF, Martín-María N, Cabello M, Ayuso-Mateos JL, Miret M. Association of loneliness with all-cause mortality: A meta-analysis. PLoS One. 2018 Jan 4;13(1):e0190033. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0190033. PMID: 29300743; PMCID: PMC5754055.