Do You Suffer From Trauma? Learn the Symptoms
Last week I spoke with James, when he told me his story it tugged at my heart strings, you see James is a man in his fifties who has recently started to struggle with feeling calm, but he does not know why. He feels like his emotions are out of control, he experiences physical and emotional reactions to life and cannot do anything to make it better.
As James and I talked something made alarm bells ring in my ears. When James was a toddler, he needed some treatment in hospital. This involved a long stay in the hospital. During the stay, for some reason, not totally clear but to do with a normal childhood virus, James was put into isolation. When James and I spoke about the situation everything made sense. He needed the treatment, he needed to be kept away from others for a while to prevent the virus endangering anyone. There wasn’t anything untoward about the experience … other than that he was a small child that needed close connection with a caregiver to function typically.
It is widely accepted that trauma is the emotional response to a dreadful event. Trauma is not always felt directly after the event, sometimes it rears its head many years later. As adults, despite a western stoic approach, events that lead to trauma are more obvious. A terrorist attack, abuse, a natural disaster for example. However, it is not always easy or obvious to accept an event that happened in childhood as traumatic when we look back at it from an adult perspective.
A Different Perspective
When we think about James’ experience from the perspective of a child it changes. James needed hospital treatment. Hospital protocol at the time meant that James stayed in hospital alone. Sure, his parents visited, and he was well cared for by the nurses, but a child of that age in a strange place without his parents would almost certainly have been in a state of fear. His parents’ visits meant that there were times he felt comforted and safe. However, when he was in isolation his parents could not come into the room. My memory of the conversation is sketchy but in the best case they were able to visit and wave from behind a window.
Small children do not have the brain development to understand this very practical situation. This experience would have affected James’ brain development. It is not illogical to believe that the effect of this could show up fifty years later and cause symptoms that we call trauma.
Symptoms of trauma might appear as a response to any event that you found physically or emotionally threatening. This threat does not have require conscious awareness. James, for example at three years old might not have a conscious awareness of the instinctual reaction in his brain. Whilst a traumatic experience generally involves a threat to life, any perceived threat to life or safety causes the same reaction in the brain. In addition, any situation that results in feelings of overwhelm or isolation can cause trauma. In other words, it is not the circumstance that categorises an event as traumatic but the individual emotional experience – the greater the feeling of fear and helplessness the greater the risk of trauma.
Symptoms of Trauma
Trauma symptoms differ from person to person, situation to situation. If you experience any of the following you might be showing signs of trauma
- Difficulty concentrating
- Anger or irritability
- Guilt, self-blame, shame, denial, or disbelief
- Withdrawing from those around you
- Feelings of disconnection
You might experience physical symptoms that some people consider anxiety, for example
- Sleep disturbances
- Feeling alert or on edge
- Pounding or racing heart
- Muscle aches
Hypnotherapy for Trauma
Trauma often creates a disconnect called dissociation. This is a coping mechanism that the human brain uses in overly stressful situations. You might feel separate from your body – as if you can watch everything that happens without feeling anything. Hypnotherapy will help you to work through the trauma and movement practices such as yoga, dancing or theatre will help you to reconnect with your body and feel again. There are many therapies that help with trauma, hypnosis helps you to feel in a controlled calm way. Using hypnosis, you can manage the feelings of trauma without fear so the brain learns to feel safe with the feelings you need to process.