When most people think of “trauma”, they think of shocking external events, such as a debilitating car accident, a rape, a house fire, being robbed at gunpoint. While all those “big T(rauma) events” certainly would elicit some dysfunctional or distressing symptoms within the majority of us, that is not all that mental health professionals qualify as trauma. In fact, in the mental health field, trauma is not understood as any external events at all, but rather as this:
“Trauma is the individual, subjective response to a deeply distressing or disturbing event that overwhelms an individual’s ability to cope, causes feelings of helplessness, diminishes their sense of self and their ability to feel the full range of emotions and experiences.”
When we look at trauma from this perspective, it is possible for all of us to suffer from the aftereffects of a traumatic event, however “big” or “little” that event may have been. How we deal with distress is not only dependent on the amount of strength or “toughness” we can muster up – factors such as genetic predispositions, body chemistry, neural pathways in the brain, and external and internal coping mechanisms all play important roles in that process. Even seemingly “little t(rauma) events” such as a surgery (and anesthesia in general), a bike accident as a kid, a move away from family or close friends, witnessing or experiencing domestic violence, etc. can elicit trauma in some people.
Some of the most common symptoms of a traumatic response are:
- Panic attacks
- Poor concentration
- Nightmares/night terrors
- Emotional outbursts
- Poor emotional regulation
While sometimes trauma symptoms appear right after an eliciting event, it is also quite common for people to suppress them until months, years, or even decades later.
Here at Arkansas Counseling & Wellness, we strive to have a trauma-informed approach to most of our treatment modalities. Whether you think your current symptoms are clearly linked to either a “T” or “t” trauma at some point in your life, or whether you find out throughout your therapeutic journey that there may have been trauma you were not consciously aware of, our therapists strive to meet you where you are at and find the best possible treatment model for you. We offer TF-CBT (trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy), TBRI (trust-based relational interventions), EMDR, and Brainspotting. All of these approaches are trauma-specific.