Want to learn about healing emotional trauma? We’ll discuss what emotional trauma is, the impacts, and how to navigate the healing journey.
Emotional trauma impacts our lives, leaving deep invisible scars that affect each area of our lives. Depending on the length and severity of each wound, it can even change the course of our lives. With the right support, resources, and strategies, it is possible to heal and create a beautiful future.
In this article, we will explore the what is emotional trauma, signs of emotional trauma in adults, symptoms of emotional trauma, what to expect from an emotional trauma test, and practical steps to facilitate healing.
You may save this post and return at any point along your journey. Let’s dive in.
This article is all about healing from emotional trauma.
Healing Emotional Trauma
Understanding Emotional Trauma
Emotional, or psychological, trauma refers to an overwhelming experience or series of experiences that disrupt one’s sense of safety, trust, and well-being. It can result from various events, such as physical or emotional abuse, neglect, abandonment, manipulation, coercion, accidents, loss, or witnessing violence.
Narcissistic abuse is an example of psychological trauma as the narcissist uses a number of manipulation tactics. If a person experiences physical trauma, they most likely have emotional trauma as well. However, physical trauma isn’t necessary to experience emotional trauma. Mind games and manipulation, lack of support and love are examples of emotional trauma without physical harm.
Signs of emotional trauma in adults
Emotional trauma can manifest in various ways in adults, impacting their emotional, psychological, and even physical well-being. It is important to note that people may exhibit different signs based on their individual experiences and coping mechanisms. Here are some common signs of emotional trauma in adults:
- Intense and Persistent Emotional Distress: Adults who have experienced emotional trauma may often experience intense and overwhelming emotions. They may frequently feel anxious, depressed, irritable, or emotionally numb. Emotional distress may also manifest as mood swings or extreme reactions to triggers.
- Intrusive Thoughts and Flashbacks: Intrusive thoughts and flashbacks are common symptoms of emotional trauma. Adults may have distressing and vivid memories of the traumatic event(s), which may be triggered by certain situations, sights, sounds, or smells. These flashbacks can cause significant distress and interfere with daily functioning.
- Avoidance and Numbing Behaviors: Individuals with emotional trauma may engage in avoidance behaviors as a way to cope with distressing memories and emotions. This can include avoiding places, people, or activities that remind them of the trauma. They may also numb their emotions through substance abuse, excessive work, or other addictive behaviors.
- Hypervigilance and Increased Anxiety: Emotional trauma can lead to a heightened sense of threat and constant vigilance. Adults may be hyperaware of their surroundings, easily startled, and exhibit signs of increased anxiety, such as restlessness, irritability, difficulty concentrating, and trouble sleeping.
- Emotional Detachment and Dissociation: Emotional trauma can cause individuals to detach from their emotions and dissociate from the present moment. They may feel disconnected from their own thoughts, feelings, and sensations. Dissociation can manifest as feeling detached from reality, having gaps in memory, or experiencing an “out-of-body” sensation.
- Trust Issues and Relationship Difficulties: Emotional trauma can profoundly impact one’s ability to trust others. Adults who have experienced trauma may have difficulty forming and maintaining healthy relationships. They may exhibit fear of abandonment, have trouble opening up emotionally, or engage in patterns of self-isolation.
- Physical Symptoms and Health Issues: Emotional trauma can have physical manifestations, such as chronic pain, headaches, gastrointestinal problems, or other unexplained physical symptoms. These physical issues may arise due to the interconnectedness of emotional and physical well-being.
- Self-Destructive Behavior and Self-Esteem Issues: Adults dealing with emotional trauma may engage in self-destructive behaviors as a way to cope or as a form of self-punishment. This can include self-harm, substance abuse, or engaging in risky behaviors. They may also struggle with low self-esteem, feelings of shame, or a negative self-image.
It is important to remember that everyone responds to trauma differently, and these signs can vary from person to person. If you or someone you know is exhibiting signs of emotional trauma, it is recommended to seek professional help.
Symptoms of Emotional Trauma
Initial and prolonged symptoms of emotional trauma are often socially acceptable making it harder to recognize. The NCBI (national center for biotechnology information) has an incredible information chart of initial, delayed and prolonged symptoms.
In summary, here are some common symptoms and reactions associated with emotional trauma:
- Initial reactions to trauma can include exhaustion, confusion, sadness, anxiety, agitation, numbness, dissociation, emotional shock.
- More severe responses to trauma may involve continuous distress, easily startled, social isolation, physical ailments, irritability.
- Delayed responses to trauma can manifest as persistent fatigue, insomnia, nightmares, fear of recurrence, anxiety specifically focused on flashbacks, panic attacks, depression, and avoidance of emotions, or activities associated with the trauma. These delayed responses can significantly impact an individual’s daily functioning and overall well-being.
Emotional Trauma Test
There are a plethora of free emotional trauma tests online that will help you understand if you have emotional trauma. It’s best to go with a clinic you trust. The main questions asked during an emotional trauma test are (trigger warning):
- Was your life endangered, threatened, or were you ever put at risk?
- Have you lived through a natural disaster?
- Did you witness someone else’s life in danger, threaten, or killed?
- Have you been in a combat zone?
- Were you sexually abused?
- Do you have difficulty sleeping because of certain events that keep you tossing and turning at night or creating reoccurring nightmares?
- Do you have shame around a certain event that occurred?
- Do you avoid certain places or conversations that involved a traumatic event?
- Do you have intrusive thoughts, memories, or flashbacks related to the traumatic event(s)?
- Do you numb or act out to avoid remembering or feeling?
If you answered yes to one or several of these questions, you may have emotional trauma. You’re not alone, and there is nothing wrong with you. Let’s discuss the next steps to take.
Steps In Healing Emotional Trauma
1. Seeking Professional Support:
Healing emotional trauma often best performed with the assistance of mental health professionals who specialize in trauma therapy. I highly highly highly recommend seeking professional help. They are trained, they know what to say, and how to help you move through challenging memories.
With that said, there are professionals who are better equipped than others. Take the time to scope out different therapists until you find the one that works for you. You’ll intuitively know, it’s a gut instinct. I understand it takes a lot of time, vulnerability, and money to do this — but you and your recovery are worth it.
There are also different therapeutic modalities to consider such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), somatic experiencing, and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). Similarly, you will know rather quickly (within the first month or two) which are the most effective tools and techniques to process and heal trauma for you.
2.Practicing Self-Care and Self-Compassion:
Self-care plays a crucial role in healing emotional trauma. It’s also might feel like the last thing you want to do. However when we engage in activities that promote relaxation, nourishment, and boundaries we reconnect with ourselves and regain a sense of control. Mindfulness practices, meditation, exercise, and creative outlets such as art, music, or writing can facilitate emotional release. Practicing self-compassion, treating oneself with kindness and understanding, is also vital during this journey, as it counteracts the self-blame and shame often associated with trauma.
3. Building a Supportive Network:
Establishing a supportive network is instrumental in healing emotional trauma. Connecting with trusted friends, family, support groups, or online communities can provide validation, understanding, and a sense of belonging. Sharing experiences, insights, and coping strategies with others who have undergone similar journeys can offer valuable support and encouragement.
4. Processing and Expressing Emotions:
Emotional healing requires individuals to process and express their emotions in a safe and healthy manner. This can be achieved through various therapeutic techniques such as talk therapy, journaling, art therapy, or somatic practices. You can read my entire journey of healing trauma with mindfulness here. I share how I used mindfulness modalities to give voice to emotions that were challenging to articulate, release pent-up feelings, and gain a greater understanding of my inner world.
5. Cultivating Positive Coping Mechanisms:
Healing from emotional trauma involves cultivating positive coping mechanisms for continuous growth. The old habits of numbing or running will be replaced with nurturing your mind, body and inner world. Habits form slowly, so be kind an patient with yourself as you adjust. I wrote an entire article about the benefits of coping mechanisms worksheets to help with the adjustment period as well as included a list of positive coping mechanisms to try.
Healing emotional trauma is a courageous and transformative journey that requires time, patience, and support. By understanding the nature of trauma, seeking professional help, practicing self-care and self-compassion, building a support network, and engaging in expressive practices, individuals can embark on a path toward healing and reclaim their inner strength and resilience. Remember, healing is a unique and personal process, and professional guidance is essential when navigating significant trauma. With commitment, self-compassion, and the right resources, it is possible to transcend the wounds of emotional trauma and move toward a life of empowerment and growth.
This article was about healing emotional trauma.