Meaning Making
Understanding Trauma & Violence

Question

How do I know whether I have trauma?

Answer

Trauma can impact individuals of all identities. It knows no boundaries and can affect anyone who has experienced extreme stress or adversity. How you label your experience is up to you, but below is some more information about what trauma can look like. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) trauma results from an event, series of events, or set of circumstances that is 1) experienced as physically or emotionally harmful or life threatening and 2) has lasting adverse effects on functioning and mental, physical, social, emotional, or spiritual well being. Trauma can be experienced at the individual level or at the community level due to one time events or ongoing, relentless exposure to stress. Trauma can also be multigenerational in nature due to historical oppression, structural violence, or exploitation. As mentioned above, trauma is not determined by specific events, but rather how we experience these events and how lasting the effects are. Trauma reactions vary by person. Everyone has different thresholds for stress in their lives and has differing reactions and needs as a result. People can respond to trauma in many ways. Some emotional responses you may experience include numbness, mood swings, anxiety, fear, guilt, shame, withdrawing from others, feeling sad or hopeless and even self-blame. Trauma can also manifest as physical symptoms such as insomnia, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, racing heartbeat, and being startled easy. Remember, just because you are experiencing symptoms now, does not mean they will last forever. Typically, symptoms get better with time, although it is common for triggering events to occasionally resurface some of our traumatic feelings. If the intensity of these feelings interferes with your ability to do daily tasks, consider consulting a healthcare professional. Your responses to trauma are normal reactions to abnormal events. Resist the urge to be hard on yourself or compare your experiences to others. Remember that all experiences are valid and it is important to seek help if you need it regardless of the circumstances. You do not need to go through this alone.

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