Trauma and Stress

Many traumas in life are innate. Some traumas are unexpected, excessive, and life-threatening. Humans are resilient enough to move on in life after a trauma, but some traumas leave deep, open emotional wounds.

Sometimes we perceive traumas as more destructive than they actually are. For example, if we are already depressed and anxious, we tend to be more heavily affected by a trauma that would not heavily affect us otherwise.
When people suffer a major trauma once, they develop stress related to it afterward. Often, people suffer from repeated traumas of the same or different kinds while experiencing stress at the same time. The interaction between new traumas and existing stress amplifies the level of stress, and such heightened stress levels make people vulnerable while dealing with simple day-to-day stress. Often, the cumulative effect of multiple traumas over time can suddenly produce a heightened stress level. At this point, our resilience to stress breaks down.

Trauma affects us by reminding us that the traumatic event happened. We cannot forget what happened to us. But trauma has a tendency to make us re-experience it in real time in the form of flashbacks, where we feel like the trauma is actually being inflicted upon us again at that very moment. When we re-experience trauma in our dreams, we wake up from the nightmares feeling traumatized. Sometimes, the nightmares are so vivid that people feel terrified and confused for hours. When we are not experiencing flashbacks, we are constantly anxious and fearful that such an event can happen again. We become depressed because of the memories of the traumatic experience. We try our best to avoid situations in which we think the traumatic event may reoccur, but eventually, we start perceiving unrelated situations to be threatening as well. In doing so, we tend to numb our feelings, try to dissociate ourselves from reality, and try to resist, becoming frantic, angry, and agitated at times.

To overcome current stress related to past trauma, the focus of treatment is to alleviate the core symptoms of anxiety, depression, and sleep issues with medication in conjunction with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Medicine helps decrease stress by alleviating anxiety, depression, and sleep issues. With lower stress levels, people have a higher cognitive ability, which allows them to understand that the traumatic event is in the past, helps them regulate their emotions when traumatic memories come back, and enables them to adopt new coping mechanisms and behaviors to modify the re-experiencing of the trauma.

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Psychiatry Specialties Clinics

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