Understanding unhealed mental trauma!
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Understanding unhealed mental trauma!

“An unresolved trauma can leave severe and long-lasting psychological and physical adverse effects”

Understanding unhealed mental trauma!

Mental trauma doesn’t spare anyone. To deal with it and get over it, first you have to understand it. It is never easy to make peace with trauma but it is crucial to know how to work with it. This is the only way to save yourself from the damage which trauma unleashes.

Types of traumas
There are different types of traumas one can experience, from losing loved ones to war or violence. Traumas are categorized into the below-mentioned types.
Acute Trauma: Acute trauma is a result of a single accident such as an acid attack.
Chronic Trauma: Chronic trauma is a result of prolonged or repeated trauma such as domestic violence.
Complex Trauma: Exposure to multiple traumatic events like war or invasion can result in complex traumas.

What do unhealed traumas look like?

Sometimes, the victim is not able to comprehend what is going on with him or her but the people around can perceive it.

Also read | Dealing with Examination Stress

Psychologist Shipra Lamba says, "An unresolved trauma can leave severe and long-lasting psychological and physical adverse effects, setting a stage for further distress. Anxiety, panic attacks, phobia, post-traumatic stress disorder, eating disorders, substance abuse, are some of the psychological symptoms showing an effect of unresolved traumas."

Here are some other psychological symptoms:

  • Shock, denial, or disbelief
  • Anger, irritability, mood swings
  • Unexplained or irrational fear of people, places, or things
  • Guilt, shame, self-blame
  • Avoidance of people, place, things, or unpleasant emotions related to the traumatic event
  • Feeling sad, helpless, hopeless
  • Feeling detached, or feeling "dead inside"
  • Loss of meaning in life
  • disorientation and confusion

Severe traumatic experiences are associated with severe mental disorders such as Schizophrenia. Mental trauma has a physical side too. A person going through mental trauma may suffer from physical health conditions such as stroke, diabetes, gastrointestinal distress, rapid heartbeat, and fatigue. Such a person may go through a long list of experiences. Some of them can be:

  • Victims might be haunted with uncontrollable repeated replays of traumatic memories.
  • Nightmares and flashbacks of painful memories.
  • A person may come across difficulty while sleeping regularly which can also be defined as insomnia.
  • An individual can also have hyper-vigilance; it is an extreme sensitivity to the environment such as alertness from dangers around.
  • They can also experience a sense of helplessness, withdrawal from social activities, numbness, over sensitivity to certain stimuli, addictions, or self-harm.
  • Victims can also have difficulty maintaining focus while attempting any activity.

Lamba says, "Often our natural defense system can lead to a certain degree of dissociation leading to blocking out all or parts of the traumatic experience. This sometimes makes it tricky for the therapist and the individual to recognize the real issue."

How can we help our loved ones suffering from unhealed traumas?

Support from loved ones matters a lot, it can result in a better and faster healing process. If someone around you is trying to cope up with a traumatic experience consider the following points:

Talk to them and give them time to accept their fears and difficulties. We want better for our loved ones but we also have to keep ourselves calm and supportive in the process.

  • Listen to them if they pour their heart out in front of you. Be empathetic and do not be judgemental.
  • Try to understand and learn more about the condition of the person so that you know what to expect.
  • Ask them how you can help, being available, a warm hug, being patient, and understanding towards their mood swings, depression, irritability or negativity can help them a lot.
  • Reassure them that what they feel is normal in such a condition.
  • Encourage them to take care of themselves by living a healthy lifestyle and by arranging therapeutic help.
  • Remember not to impose your thoughts on them. help them relax, talking about the event that can be uncomfortable for the caretaker but helps heal.

What steps should people suffering from unhealed traumas consider for their emotional well-being?
You do not need to freak out! Everything resolves with time and the correct type of help. Follow these steps to help yourself:

  • Talk about your low moments and traumatic memories with your trusted friends, family members or a professional.
  • Aim for acceptance rather than avoidance. It is normal to want to avoid unpleasant feelings and thoughts but it is necessary to face them to feel better.
  • Opt for a healthy lifestyle, sleep well, eat well, exercise, work, volunteer to help and give yourself the space, empathy, and time to heal.

What is PTSD and do all traumas cause PTSD?

PTSD is a post-traumatic stress disorder. It is a result of unresolved traumas caused by terrifying situations of life. But do all traumas lead to PTSD? Lamba says, "No, not all people who have experienced trauma develop PTSD. However, it all depends on the way we deal with a traumatic event. It can also depend on a combination of factors such as our personality, learning, the impact of the situation, our coping mechanisms, past experiences, motivations, and vicarious learning.”

She ended the conversation with, "Not all PTSD cases require psychiatric or psychological interventions because in some cases the symptoms subside or disappear over time with the help and support of their loved ones and self-care. In other words, the same experience could have a different impact on different people."

This story has been replugged on the occasion of World Mental Health Day.