Traumatic life changing events can happen to anyone. While many people can overcome traumatic experiences, often there are lasting physical and psychological effects. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can develop from a single event or a multitude of traumatic experiences. The primary risk factors for PTSD include lack of social support, limited coping skills, genetics, prior trauma, ongoing stress and mental health conditions. Individuals who have experienced complex trauma have had multiple exposures to traumatic events. Those who have previously experienced trauma may be more likely to develop PTSD.
Trauma occurs when someone experiences an overwhelming amount of stress that is beyond one’s ability to cope. Emotional responses to trauma may include shock, fear, anger, denial, and shame. Common physical symptoms include: isolation, insomnia, increased startle response, nightmares, flashbacks, agitation and/or emotional outbursts. These responses are considered normal reactions to abnormal events and can last anywhere from a few days to several months. If these symptoms impact our day-to-day life for more than 30 days, it may be time to seek out support from a behavioral health professional.
The National Council for Behavioral Health reports that 70% of adults will experience some type of trauma at least once in their lives. The good news is that everyone has inherent strengths to pull from, called resiliency, which enables them to overcome traumatic events. Resilience is the ability to bounce back from a difficult situation. Resilient factors include having a positive outlook, using constructive coping strategies, and access to social support. Tapping into our resilient factors allows us to overcome our negative experiences and be emotionally available to others.
Helpful coping strategies to promote resiliency:
- Seek social support from friends or a support group
- Exercise—walking, yoga, bicycling
- Balanced diet
- Regular sleep schedule
- Mindfulness, meditation, deep breathing