The most common reactions to trauma therapist aid

This blog post consists of the most common reactions to trauma, problems that can occur after the experience, and the various techniques and coping strategies one could practice to cope up with the traumatic experience. 

The most common reactions to trauma are:

  • Re-experiencing the trauma
  • Avoidance of trauma reminders
  • Negative thoughts and feelings
  • Hyperarousal
  • The feeling of hopelessness about the future
  • Detachment
  • Difficult in decision making and concentration
  • Excessive alertness
  • Disturbed dreams, memories, and flashbacks
  • Work-related concerns

The physical reactions associated with trauma are:

  • Rapid breathing and palpitations 
  • Severe headaches
  • Loss/increase in appetite 
  • Neglected self-care
  • Excess smoking, alcohol consumption, and drugs

Common reactions to trauma 

How people commonly react to trauma is usually subjective and is often painful. 

These reactions sometimes have very little to do with the trauma and can bring high levels of pain, stress and may last for several days, weeks, or even months.

These reactions to trauma can be very overwhelming using as the person might feel he or she is the only one experiencing all of these emotions all at once. 

Normalizing and bringing to the awareness that it is okay for the person to feel the way they are feeling and validating their emotional state and giving them support could help.

What are the common reactions to trauma?

The most common reactions to trauma are:

  • Re-experiencing the trauma
  • Avoidance of trauma reminders
  • Negative thoughts and feelings
  • Hyperarousal
  • The feeling of hopelessness about the future
  • Detachment
  • Difficult in decision making and concentration
  • Excessive alertness
  • Disturbed dreams, memories, and flashbacks
  • Work-related concerns

The physical reactions associated with trauma are:

  • Rapid breathing and palpitations 
  • Severe headaches
  • Loss/increase in appetite 
  • Neglected self-care
  • Excess smoking, alcohol consumption, and drugs

The common reactions to trauma worksheet- therapist aid lays out the common reactions and symptoms that people experience after a traumatic experience. 

The goal of this worksheet by therapist aid is to bring about awareness and normalize the common reactions associated with trauma. 

Every individual’s experience and reactions are unique to trauma and this tool encourages the individual to describe how he/ she is feeling and the behaviors associated with the experience and this resource by therapists aid on common reactions to trauma can be used as a guide to understanding the individual’s experience better. 

The worksheet by therapist aid mainly focuses on the common reactions an individual could have to trauma started with re-experiencing the trauma. After a traumatic experience the 

After a traumatic experience, survivors tend to relive their trauma over and over through their feelings, memories, thoughts, and other means such as recurrent flashbacks and nightmares. 

This might trigger uncomfortable emotions within them, and this in turn makes it difficult for them to cope up and go through functioning and carrying out daily activities. 

Avoidance of reminders that take them back to the experiences is one of the most common reactions to trauma. 

This can be consciously done by avoiding conversations, places, activities, people, or things related to the trauma, by means of consuming alcohol and drugs to suppress uncomfortable thoughts and emotions. 

Negative thoughts and feelings that don’t seem related to the event might emerge as a common reaction to trauma. 

This includes loss of interest in activities that were previously enjoyed by the individual, detachment, and isolation, difficulty in experiencing positive feelings, a sense of self-blame or blaming others, loss of memory of the event. 

Few reactions might start to worsen after the trauma and this might make the individual feel like s/he is always on the edge. 

Commonly, individuals experience anger towards anything that seems irritable or often aggressively responds to events, difficulty in concentration and sleep, feelings of anxiety followed by physical symptoms such as palpitations, stomach upset, and headaches. 

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a condition that can develop after an individual has an encounter that is life-altering and threatening in nature. 

Recurrent thoughts, avoidance of situations, people, places, and conversations related to the traumatic event, numbness, trouble in relaxing, excessive caution, and startle are the most common reactions to trauma, in the case of PTSD being present. 

The individual might feel disinterest with regards to activities that were enjoyable to them before the traumatic experience and might feel low on energy most of the time and this might slow down the process of performing daily activities. 

The personal loss might lead the person to think of self-harm and suicidal thoughts might cross the person’s mind. 

Survivors’ guilt occurs where the person who has been through the traumatic event survived but someone close to them didn’t survive. 

This often leads the person to blame themselves and feel as though the other person was good but didn’t survive and this instills a lot of guilt and the person tends to be highly critical about them surviving the event. 

Acute stress disorder can occur as a response to trauma, and its symptoms often overlap with those of post-traumatic stress disorder. 

An acute stress disorder includes symptoms such as not aware of the time, place, and orientation and a feeling of dissociation with one’s own body. 

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How could you treat someone who experiences trauma

Cognitive-behavioral Therapy 

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the most well-supported and common therapeutic techniques administered for trauma-related conditions. 

This technique works by identifying the negative and unhealthy thought patterns that the individual indulges in and challenging them by often replacing and structuring them with more affirming and positive thought processes. 

The benefits of CBT can be long-lasting and can make a difference in individuals functioning and well-being. 

Exposure Therapy

In this therapeutic technique, the individual is systematically and gradually exposed to reminders of the trauma in a safe way. 

As the person goes ahead with the process with enough exposure the traumatic aspect begins to lose its power and the power it has over the person and the symptoms slowly start to diminish. 

This technique has been extensively studied and supported by research.

Medication

To manage the symptoms of trauma such as insomnia, anxiety, and depression medications can be prescribed by a psychiatrist to the affected individual. 

There are times when the intensity of the symptoms is high and the individual might not be able to benefit through psychotherapy alone and in cases like these medication can be prescribed by a mental healthcare professional. 

Other treatments

Other treatments include- Eye movement Desensitization and reprocessing (EDMR), Narrative exposure therapy, and group therapy. 

What are the proven therapeutic measures to deal with common reactions to trauma?

These therapeutic measures have also proven to be effective for survivors of trauma. 

Deal, feel, heal and seal:

The first step involves the individual speaking about their experience and narrating their story. This usually happens at different phases for each individual as not all of them would be comfortable in opening up immediately after the experience. 

The beginning is quite difficult, to begin with as the person might feel overwhelmed with all the emotions associated with the event gushing in while speaking which is a common response to trauma, but it does get easier once the process starts and goes on. 

The next step involves the use of exposure therapy where the client is asked to read his or her narrative and the therapist guides them through the process and takes it at the pace of the client’s comfort. 

This helps the client in processing the event and also in identifying primary feelings that are associated with the vent. 

A lot of self-reflective activities are given to the client as homework and this might be challenging as it involves processing memories that might bring in intense feelings within them. 

The third step includes the therapist explaining to the client that it wasn’t a conscious choice they made to go through the trauma that led them to this point but working on it was a conscious effort they made. 

The concept called- rewriting the ending which is a part of narrative therapy is used here and this can help the client create a path that they wish to take and find meaning in their experience. 

This also helps them become a stronger person from it slowly as their experience doesn’t define who they are, and they are worthy of so much more.

The final step involves reorganizing the traumatic memory and adding the aspects that they have grown in as a person and this can be revisited by the client at any point when they want to but now that they have dealt with it, it’s only best that they reorganize the components associated to the memory and keep them away. 

The purpose of this is just so that the client feels empowered over their trauma and their experience, making them ready to move forward with his or her life and with an improved perspective on how they see things and that they are worthy of all that is coming their way. 

This might bring awareness to the client and acceptance of oneself and their worth and looking beyond their experience and being able to live the life they want to lead. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What is considered the most common reaction to trauma?

The most common reaction to trauma is anxiety and fear and it lasts long after the traumatic experience.

What are reactions to trauma?

The reactions to trauma include: 

  • exhaustion, 
  • loss of interest, 
  • distress, 
  • confusion, 
  • prolonged sadness, 
  • numbness, 
  • physical arousal, and 
  • blunted affect. 

What does a trauma narrative look like?

A trauma narrative is an empowering story that comes out by putting together sounds, and emotions. This can be expressed through talking, writing, and even employing art. 

What does the cycle of anxiety therapist aid mean?

The cycle of anxiety occurs when a person pushes away his or her fears and doesn’t deal with them effectively over a long period and these fears grow powerful as time passes by. 

On one hand, avoidance is hard to resist, and on the other, the anxiety continues to grow. This cycle can be broken through anxiety treatments. 

What does trauma response feel like? 

Trauma response that is emotional in nature can often include: 

  • detachment, 
  • fear, 
  • anxiety, 
  • confusion, 
  • numbness and 
  • distress. 

References:

Common Reactions to Trauma. (2017, September 29). Shawna

Freshwater, PhD. https://spacioustherapy.com/common-reactions-trauma/

10 Post Traumatic Growth (PTG) Worksheets & Practices.

(2019,November20).PositivePsychology.com. https://positivepsychology.com/post-traumatic-growth-worksheets/

What is Trauma? (Worksheet). (n.d.). Therapist Aid. Retrieved

June 14, 2021, from https://www.therapistaid.com/therapy-worksheet/what-is-trauma

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