How do we define trauma?
If you look up the word “trauma” various definitions populate. The underlying theme amongst the definitions involves an unpleasant experience that leaves a person with an injury. The injury can be physical, emotional or even mental. So then, how do we define trauma?
When I first meet with a client we go over quite a few questions to help me better understand their want for professional help. As we get to questions about trauma, some clients initially respond they have not experienced trauma in their lives. As our discussion continues, I help clients identify what mental health providers refer to as BIG T’S (Big Traumas) and little t’s (little traumas). It is estimated that “Approximately one half (50%) of all individuals will be exposed to at least one traumatic event in their lifetime” (American Psychological Association, 2016). While 50% of folks may experience trauma, responses to such trauma differ from person to person. One person may be able to continue through life with little to no help with the trauma while others could have lifelong difficulties.
Big T’s can differ in the level of severity along with the healing time involved in resolving such trauma. There are some cases in which these traumas impact an individual for the duration of their life. Examples can include witnessing a horrific crime, experiencing war, surviving abuse (emotional, physical, sexual) or neglect, exposure to violence and being involved in a car accident. Little t’s can be very impactful and are not necessarily less significant but different in nature from big traumas. Examples can include personal divorce, divorce of parents, death of an important person, loss of a job, increased debt, moving locations frequently and breaking up with a partner. When a person is exposed to indirect or direct traumas repeatedly at a lower level of intensity, the impacts can still be decisive to how a person approaches everyday life.
Trauma can manifest into various areas of life if not acknowledged and addressed. Survivors of trauma may experience physical, emotional and mental symptoms. Along with such symptoms, it is not uncommon to have addictions or other struggles surface with unresolved trauma. A person could be pulled to unhealthy relationships with people, alcohol, drugs, sex and yes-even FOOD. Struggles with food can fall on a continuum by restricting, bingeing and anything in between. Destructive patterns and behaviors of eating disorders or disordered eating start to become second nature. While you cannot go back in time to take away such events, you can move forward with healing them. Grab ahold of the lifesaver and start to release the BIG and/or little traumas that have been weighing you down!
I originally wrote this as a guest blogger while working for a group practice in 2016.
© Erica Faulhaber 2016 – This blog may be shared or reprinted as long as the information is unedited and the author bio, including contact information is printed along with the blog.
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