4 MIN READ | Mental Health

What Are the Symptoms of Psychological Trauma?

Dennis Relojo-Howell

Cite This
Dennis Relojo-Howell, (2020, July 15). What Are the Symptoms of Psychological Trauma?. Psychreg on Mental Health. https://www.psychreg.org/symptoms-of-psychological-trauma/
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Traumatic events are life-changing and leave lasting impressions in your mind. Some also leave physical scars that require ongoing care. 

The 9/11 terrorist attack is a prime example of this. Many people died during the attack, but more have also developed serious conditions or passed away years later because of exposure. 

The costs of monitoring and treatment services for 9/11 victims is high but necessary to provide relief to those in need. It is important to seek treatment if you need it, but sometimes it can be difficult to realise when you are being affected by trauma. 

To have better self-awareness, you’ll need to understand what psychological trauma looks like. We’ll get you started by going over a few important symptoms caused by psychological trauma below.

Guilt

Many trauma survivors feel guilt in one of a few ways. 

The first way you might feel guilt is by surviving. This is where you feel as though you didn’t deserve to survive your experience. Keep in mind that you shouldn’t have been in that position in the first place and nothing is your fault.

You may also feel guilty for having experienced trauma. It may make you have poor self-esteem and view yourself in a negative light for ‘allowing’ it to happen to you. Remember that you aren’t to blame and it doesn’t change who you are. 

Alternatively, you may feel guilty for not doing enough to prevent your experience. It’s easy to envision how a few different decisions could’ve prevented what occurred. Despite that, you shouldn’t have to anticipate trauma at all times and nobody reasonably can. 

As you can see, there are many reasons for feeling guilty. That said, none of them are reasonable and you must focus on forgiving yourself.

Numbness

You’ll also likely experience intense numbness in response to psychological trauma.

This happens in two main ways.

First, you may be emotionally numb. After experiencing a traumatic event, it’s normal to feel extremely sad, angry, confused, and hurt.

On the other hand, it’s also normal to feel nothing. That doesn’t mean you’re heartless, but instead, you are so affected by the trauma that the only way you can function is by not reacting.

Going numb is a standard response to intense trauma because the alternative is an emotional outpour that you may feel shameful or uncomfortable doing. It is a defence mechanism and it can be useful, but not if you ignore what’s happening inside you.

The other type of numbness resulting from trauma is a lack of interest in your life. Where you may previously have felt joy and had ambitions, you may no longer care for your goals. In other situations, you may actively sabotage them.

Trauma is so jarring that it shakes you to your core. What was previously important seems insignificant in comparison. 

Numbness is certainly a normal response to trauma, but it doesn’t mean that you don’t care. Remember this and try to tap into your suppressed emotions. 

Overwhelming emotions

In contrast to numbness, you may also have episodes of unexpected and overwhelming emotions.

The main issue with feeling numb is that you aren’t immune to your trauma. You just don’t realise it. That said, you are certainly feeling powerful emotions as a result of what you’ve been through.

Being unable to address these emotions causes them to get bottled up. When you bottle your emotions, you will eventually burst because you can only hold so much at once.

As a result, you’ll break down in the most unexpected situations. Dealing with something as harmless and insignificant as spilling a drink or picking something out at the grocery store can cause you to burst into tears.

Everyone responds to trauma differently, but the similarity is that everyone responds. If you don’t address your emotions, they will come back to haunt you when you least expect it. 

Withdrawal

Another common symptom of psychological trauma is emotional and physical withdrawal.

When you’ve been through something traumatic, it changes your perspective of the world. What you previously viewed as safe and normal may seem foreign and uncertain. 

As a result of this, your natural inclination will be to keep to yourself. You feel like you can’t trust the outside world because trauma is a major violation of your trust.

Being alone allows you to shrug that feeling like someone’s watching. It lets you be truly you without any fear of judgement or repercussion.

Not only are you isolated physically, but it may strain your relationships with others. Your physical withdrawal is a representation of what is going on inside your mind as well.

Trauma dramatically shifts your mindset and you just aren’t as present as you once were. It’s difficult to keep in touch with others and stay connected to them when you feel so strongly about what’s going on with you. 

It can certainly be useful to spend some time alone, but you shouldn’t let your relationships suffer. As horrible as you feel now, you may regret not putting in the effort for a friend that genuinely cares about you. 

Physical discomfort

Lastly, seemingly unrelated physical discomfort can be a result of trauma.

Even if an incident doesn’t cause physical harm, the mental impact can cause physical ailments. This is because your mind and body are directly connected in a codependent relationship. When one is impacted, the other is similarly affected.

Imagine how you feel when you’re sick. Your spirits are often low. On the other hand, being in a low mood can make your body ache. 

Common discomforts resulting from trauma include headaches, jitteriness, nausea, and an upset stomach. None of these are particularly challenging, but they add further frustration to an already difficult situation.

If you eat a regular diet and consume plenty of water, you shouldn’t feel unwell throughout the day. Minor aches may be a result of the trauma you have experienced. Focusing on a healthy diet, getting plenty of sleep, and participating in mindfulness can help alleviate these symptoms. 

Closing thoughts

Psychological trauma is devastating and can have long-lasting effects. You may not feel affected by experiencing a traumatic event, but it may be causing changes in your demeanour and mindset that are doing your harm. 

Considering this, you should understand what the symptoms of psychological trauma are. This includes guilt, numbness, bouts of overwhelming emotions, withdrawal, and physical discomfort.

Regardless of how long it has been since a trauma occurred, you can still be affected many years later. Seeking help and addressing your emotions is the only way to move forward with your life.

***

Image credit: Freepik


Dennis Relojo-Howell is the founder of Psychreg. He interviews people within psychology, mental health, and well-being on his YouTube channel, The DRH Show.

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