Trauma is the most avoided, ignored, denied, misunderstood, and untreated cause of human suffering. Many believe symptoms of trauma only result from abuse and extremely traumatic events. While this is true, many people also suffer from symptoms of trauma from any perceived life-threatening or overwhelming experience. When it comes go trauma, no two people are exactly alike. What may be traumatic for one person may not be traumatic for another, and vise versa. The first step in healing trauma and abuse is recognizing the impact it has had on you and your life.
Symptoms and their Order of Appearance
The first symptoms that are likely to develop after an overwhelming event include hyperarousal, constriction, dissociation and denial, as well as feelings of helplessness, immobility, or freezing.
Hyperarousal. In the form of physical symptoms–this includes increased heart rate, sweating, difficulty breathing (rapid, shallow, panting, etc.), cold sweats, tingling, and muscular tension. In the form of mental symptoms–this includes increased repetitious thoughts, racing mind, and worry.
Constriction. Hyperarousal is accompanied by constriction in our bodies. Our nervous system acts to protect us and to ensure that all of our efforts can be focused on the threat in a functional way. Constriction alters a persons breathing, muscle tone, and posture. We may also feel numb and shut down.
Dissociation and denial. Dissociation protects us from being overwhelmed by escalating arousal, fear, and pain. It is what enables a person to endure experiences that are at the moment beyond endurance. Denial is a lower level energy form of dissociation. It is a disconnection between a person and the memory of or feelings about an overwhelming event (or series of events).
Feelings of helplessness, immobility, and freezing. In this sense, this feeling of helplessness is not the ordinary feeling that can affect anyone, it is the sense of being collapsed, immobilized, utterly helpless. It is very real.
My experience with trauma, abuse, and PTSD is that you can heal and live a life of freedom and presence.