Dealing with the Effects of Trauma Introduction

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This is a serious issue. This article is just an introduction — a starting point that may give you the courage to take action. It is not meant to be a treatment program. The ideas and strategies are not intended to replace treatment you are currently receiving.

You may have had one or many very upsetting, frightening, or traumatic things happen to you in your life, or that threatened or hurt something you love—even your community. When these kinds of things happen, you may not “get over” them quickly. In fact, you may feel the effects of these traumas for many years, even for the rest of your life. Sometimes you don't even notice effects right after the trauma happens. Years later you may begin having thoughts, nightmares, and other disturbing symptoms. You may develop these symptoms and not even remember the traumatic thing or things that once happened to you.


For many years, the traumatic things that happened to people were overlooked as a possible cause of frightening, distressing, and sometimes disabling emotional symptoms such as depression, anxiety, phobias, delusions, flashbacks, and being out of touch with reality. In recent years, many researchers and health care providers have become convinced of the connection between trauma and these symptoms. They are develop ing new treatment programs and revising old ones to better meet the needs of people who have had traumatic experiences.

This center can help you to know if traumatic experiences in your life may be causing some or all of the difficult symptoms you are experiencing. It may give you some guidance in working to relieve these symptoms and share with you some simple and safe things you can do to help yourself heal from the effects of trauma.

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Some examples of traumatic experiences that may be causing your symptoms include —

  • physical, emotional, or sexual abuse
  • neglect
  • war experiences
  • outbursts of temper and rage
  • alcoholism (your own or in your family)
  • physical illnesses, surgeries, and disabilities
  • sickness in your family
  • loss of close family members and friends
  • natural disasters
  • accidents

Some things that may be very traumatic to one person hardly seem to bother another person. If something bothers you a lot and it doesn't bother someone else, it doesn't mean there is something wrong with you. People respond to experiences differently.

Do you feel that traumatic things that happened to you may be causing some or all of your distressing and disabling emotional symptoms? Examples of symptoms that may be caused by trauma include —

  • anxiety
  • insomnia
  • agitation
  • irritability or rage
  • flashbacks or intrusive memories
  • feeling disconnected from the world
  • unrest in certain situations
  • being “shut down”
  • being very passive
  • feeling depressed
  • eating problems
  • needing to do certain things over and over
  • unusual fears
  • impatience
  • always having to have things a certain way
  • doing strange or risky things
  • having a hard time concentrating
  • wanting to hurt yourself
  • being unable to trust anyone
  • feeling unlikable
  • feeling unsafe
  • using harmful substances
  • keeping to yourself
  • overworking

Perhaps you have been told that you have a psychiatric or mental illness like depression, bipolar disorder or manic depression, schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder, obsessive—compulsive disorder, dissociative disorder, an eating disorder, or an anxiety disorder. The ways you can help yourself handle these symptoms and the things your health care providers suggest as treatment may be helpful whether your symptoms are caused by trauma or by a psychiatric illness

Sourced in November 2013 from:

Center for Mental Health Services
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services
5600 Fishers Lane, Room 15-99
Rockville, MD 20857

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