Learn How To Process Trauma and Use PTSD Management

Learn How To Process Trauma and Use PTSD Management

Most likely, at some point in everyone’s life, they experienced some sort of trauma — however, not everyone who experiences trauma experiences the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 

General trauma and PTSD are often associated with substance use disorder (SUD). Many people use substances to numb the pain that they experience when trauma is triggered. However, using substances as a method of emotional management is unhealthy and ineffective. You may feel a moment of relief from the high of using a substance, but it will make your PTSD symptoms worse in the long run. 

Understanding your trauma, what caused it, and your emotions surrounding the event will help you heal some of your wounds and manage your PTSD symptoms. Talking about and understanding your trauma may be the only way that you will be able to properly process the traumatic event and move forward with your life.

Identifying the Difference

Trauma is characterized as exposure to any frightening or dangerous event or circumstance that has adverse effects on the person’s physical or mental well-being. Often trauma is associated with violence, but trauma can also be caused by unexpected experiences like losing someone close to you. 

The development of PTSD may occur a few months or even a few years after the traumatic event. People who experience trauma but don’t develop PTSD symptoms can process their emotions surrounding the traumatic event because they use the available resources to help them come to terms with the traumatic event. This includes people who immediately seek out support from friends and family, find a support group for people who’ve experienced similar traumas, learn positive coping mechanisms from a mental health professional, and feel good about the action they took during the traumatic event.

Everyone reacts and processes trauma differently. Some people have resources available such as a supportive family or money to receive treatment for trauma that others might not have access to. These resources may help to mitigate the onset of PTSD symptoms. It is natural for someone to have a “fight or flight” reaction to a traumatic situation as their body has an immediate response to combat the danger or the threat that you face at that moment. After a traumatic event, you will likely experience trauma symptoms such as physical and emotional triggers that cause you to reimagine the event; however, if these symptoms last more than a month, you could be diagnosed with PTSD.

Diagnosing PTSD

According to the DSM-5, which is often a guide for diagnosis, a person has PTSD when they experience a symptom from each of the four PTSD symptom categories. These categories are arousal and reactivity, re-experiencing, avoidance, and cognition and mood symptoms. 

Arousal and reactivity symptoms are often considered to be energy-charged. These symptoms may take the forms of angry outbursts, being startled easily, having difficulty sleeping, and feeling on edge. Re-experiencing symptoms involve a re-living of the past traumatic event. Oftentimes, these types of symptoms take the form of flashbacks, sweating, and a racing heart. Avoidance symptoms are when you rearrange your schedule to avoid situations, things, or people that may trigger your trauma. If you are struggling with PTSD, you may misremember the traumatic event. You are likely to blame yourself for the situation, experience negative thoughts about your world, have difficulties remembering the trauma, and struggle to enjoy activities you once loved. 

If you feel like these descriptions apply to you, then it’s imperative to call a mental health professional so that they can help you find the right tools that will help you accept your trauma, keep your negative emotions at bay, and allow you to live your life.

PTSD Treatments

While some people take psychotics for PTSD treatment, “talk” therapy (also called psychotherapy) is an essential treatment that will help you heal from your trauma. Psychotherapy has helped people mitigate their symptoms and accept their traumas. 

One type of psychotherapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), includes exposure therapy, which introduces you to something you are afraid of gradually and in a safe environment. This will help you become more comfortable with the feared object or event. CBT also includes cognitive restructuring, which focuses on remembering the trauma in a way that is based on reality and may remove a sense of guilt from you. 

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a popular type of therapy for people who struggle to process trauma. It involves the patient following an object that the mental health professional moves back and forth as a source of external stimulus while discussing the person’s trauma.