The Montfort Group

Trauma: Lasting Effects That You Can’t See

If you were born, you have trauma. This sounds like a big statement but it’s true. In my practice as a therapist, it is one of the most common reasons individuals seek therapy. Trauma is the body’s natural response to a harmful experience. Because our bodies are so adept at helping to survive trauma, it can be difficult to identify and treat. It leaves an invisible internal injury that others can’t see from the outside yet it permanently affects the brain’s ability to process information. 

“Traumatic stress reactions are normal reactions to abnormal circumstances.”

Trauma is Unique

Everything about trauma and its effects vary from person to person and the outcome depends on the unique combination of factors and variables. Some may have clear displays of trauma while for others the “impact can be subtle, insidious, or outright destructive.” Individual characteristics, the type of trauma, the individual’s level of developmental processes, the meaning of the trauma and sociocultural factors all intertwine to shape an individual’s experience. 

Associated emotions may include anger, fear, sadness, and shame. The ability to regulate these big emotions becomes increasingly difficult at any stage of life. It is important to remember that all reactions to the experience of trauma are valid and acceptable. Some find comfort in talking through their experience and sharing freely. Not all survivors feel the need to express and talk about their emotions. 

Reactions to Trauma

Unresolved trauma can affect the body, zapping its ability to perform optimally and may produce one of two extreme effects: 

  • Hyperarousal: a feeling of being overwhelmed and feeling too much, 
  • Hypoarousal: a feeling of numbness and feeling too little. 

Both are biological changes initiated by trauma and are the body’s way of remaining prepared to handle future danger. Hyperarousal, also called hypervigilance, can cause a person to overreact to situations that are perceived as dangerous when it is actually safe. Sleep disturbance, muscle tension, and sensitive startle responses are examples of hyperarousal that can persist in trauma survivors for years to come.  Hypoarousal is the opposite of hyperarousal, and its symptoms include apathy, depression, isolation, and low motivation. Although these are the body’s natural mechanisms of self-protection after trauma, over time these responses can become detrimental to the system if not addressed.

Self-medicating or substance abuse can occur as an attempt to respond to trauma and regulate emotions but ultimately causes further emotional dysregulation. Some engage in high-risk or self-injurious behaviors, disordered eating, compulsive behaviors (gambling, overworking, repression or denial of emotions) which may all an attempt to regulating the painful mark left by the experience. 

And with so many symptoms at once, it may be difficult for trauma survivors to understand, label and describe their feelings. Imagine the effect this constant state of dis-ease can have on your wellbeing as it persists for weeks, months, or years… 

Resolving Trauma

The good news is that most people can resolve trauma without severe long-term consequences by using appropriate coping strategies and social supports to deal with the after-effects of these experiences. Therapy is a tool that can help you find the balance between emotional extremes and assist you with regulating difficult emotions.

Contact The Montfort Group today and let’s work together to help you put down the burden of that heavy emotional load you’ve been carrying and begin the worthwhile journey to claim the life you’ve always wanted.


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