Managing Trauma Impact


Why do I keep making myself relive what happened, as well as versions of the event that didn't even happen and are either infinitely worse or are completely different? I keep making myself read or create stories about it and I keep getting lost in daydreams I don't want to have. Does it make me a bad person?


Thank you so much for sharing this with us. I can imagine this is extremely distressing and personal for you, so we appreciate your trust. Know that other survivors may be silently suffering under similar circustances. You asking this question may help others as well.

It sounds like what you are experiencing is perhaps intrusive thoughts or rumination. Intrusive thoughts, including exaggerated or false scenarios, are common among trauma survivors, reflecting the mind's attempt to process unresolved emotions and memories. These thoughts may lead to emotional distress, anxiety, and heightened sensitivity to trauma-related triggers, impacting daily functioning. Managing these intrusive thoughts is possible, although it may require some time and effort. Let's first talk about what rumination is.

Rumination can be noticed when you are stuck in a loop of distressing or negative thoughts, and it feels like you can't seem to stop even if you want to. Even if you’re not aware of it, thinking persistently about the past may be something you do to find relief from things that are out of your control. You may also ruminate on your trauma to try to uncover new perspectives on what happened, or revise details as if you could change it.

Rumination is a behavior and not a mental health condition, but it is important to note that it could be a symptom of  anxiety, posttraumatic stress, or a mood disorder. Whether or not your rumination is associated with a mental health concern, it doesn’t have to be permanent. You can learn to manage it. Experiencing rumination does not make you a bad person; these are involuntary responses.

To manage rumination or  intrusive thoughts, consider practicing mindfulness techniques to ground yourself, showing yourself self-compassion, and engaging in healthy distractions when needed. You also might try to be your own scientist and figure out what triggers your rumination, and try to limit your access to those triggers if possible. In addition, a 2014 study found that people who went on a 90-minute nature walk reported fewer symptoms of rumination and a 2018 study, among others, found that exercise can also reduce symptoms of rumination. For other suggestions on how to manage rumination, check out this link.

If after trying some of the strategies listed above, you still feel unable to control the rumination you are experiencing, that may be a sign that you could benefit from the support of a mental health professional. Their expertise can offer specialized guidance, therapeutic interventions, and a supportive environment to navigate the complexities of trauma-related intrusive thoughts. Recognize that asking for external assistance is a proactive step towards addressing these challenges and fostering a path to healing. You do not need to go through this alone. 

Thank you for asking this question. We are here for you.

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