The term “trauma” is used to describe a disturbing or frightening experience. Some examples are being in a car accident, military combat, or being the victim of a violent attack. When someone experiences a traumatic event, their mind and body become overwhelmed with feelings of extreme stress and shock. This emotional response is also often referred to as trauma.
There are many different causes, influences, and symptoms of trauma and each person’s physical and emotional response will be unique to them. However, the type of trauma that one has is generally described as either acute, chronic, or complex. Acute trauma occurs immediately after an event and subsides within a month. Chronic trauma happens when a person is exposed to prolonged periods of distress. Trauma therapy is often required to fully recover. Complex trauma is the third, and most difficult type of trauma to process. Similar to chronic trauma, it involves distressing incidents that occur repeatedly over a period of time, but what makes it “complex” is that it also involves interpersonal relationships.
Many victims of trauma try to cope with their symptoms on their own, hoping that with time, they will eventually go away. What most people don’t realize is that more often than not, just the opposite usually happens. Without addressing the root cause of your symptoms and allowing your brain to properly process what has happened, you may never fully recover. In fact, if you choose to ignore your symptoms, they may actually get worse over time.
At Blair Wellness Group, we offer comprehensive trauma therapy that focuses on treating the cause and not just the symptoms. If you’re looking for a dedicated, experienced, and compassionate therapist who can help you face whatever it is you’re going through, please contact us to make an appointment.
Causes of Complex Trauma
Complex trauma, also known as complex post-traumatic stress disorder, results from repeated incidents of trauma generally within the context of an interpersonal relationship. It usually occurs at times when someone is most vulnerable, either physically or psychologically, and is often associated with abuse or neglect from a parent, caregiver, or protector. Some specific examples include:
- Domestic abuse
- Childhood neglect or abuse
- Ongoing emotional, physical, or sexual abuse
- Residing in areas that are dominated by war
- Multiple military deployments to dangerous locations
Symptoms of Complex Trauma
Trauma symptoms vary significantly from person to person and can range from mild to severe. Regardless of the type of trauma (acute, chronic, complex), there are many symptoms that all of them have in common. Not everyone will experience all of these symptoms, but it’s likely they will experience at least a few. They include physical responses such as sweating, heart palpitations, nausea, headaches, and digestive issues as well as psychological responses such as anxiety, fear, depression, anger, and denial. Although victims of complex trauma deal with many of the same symptoms as those who have experienced a single traumatic event, there are some other symptoms that are unique. Those include:
Difficulty Regulating Emotions — Some people experience feelings that seem uncontrollable such as unrelenting sadness or explosive outbursts.
Chronic Feelings of Guilt and Shame — These feelings can become so all-consuming that the person feels as though they are completely different from other human beings.
Isolation — Some victims may choose to avoid relationships because of their distrust of others.
Preoccupation With Revenge — A person may become consumed with their relationship between themselves and their abuser.
Loss of Systems of Meaning — Some victims of complex trauma become completely hopeless and lose their faith. The loss of faith can refer to a religion, mankind, or both.
Anyone who has experienced ongoing abuse or neglect is more likely to develop complex trauma, however, some people may have an even greater risk. They include people who lack a strong support system, have a difficult or dangerous job, or are naturally prone to stress. Those who have an underlying mental illness or a family history of mental illness such as depression or anxiety are also more prone to developing complex trauma symptoms.
Complications of Complex Trauma
Someone who has been the victim of long-term or repetitive trauma — especially the kind that involves abuse or neglect from a person of trust — may, as a result, experience a complete change in how they think and feel about themselves and the world around them. They may have an altered self-perception that causes them to feel riddled with guilt and blame themselves for what has happened. In other instances, victims may become consumed with anger, desensitized to violence, and even seek relationships that remind them of their aggressor.
Regardless of how symptoms manifest, it is not uncommon for them to cause significant turmoil in daily life, affecting work, existing relationships, and more. Without treatment, further complications may arise including engaging in self-destructive or high-risk behavior.
Treatment for Complex Trauma
It’s unlikely that someone who has experienced life-altering trauma will make a complete recovery on their own. However, there are some self-help strategies that you can use that will help you cope with your symptoms. For instance, maintaining a healthy lifestyle that includes eating right, avoiding drugs and alcohol, daily exercise, and getting proper rest can go a long way toward nurturing positive mental health. Staying connected with friends and family is another valuable self-help strategy that can be difficult at first, but very beneficial for improving mood and relieving stress in the long run.
In addition to practicing self-care, it’s essential to seek trauma therapy from a licensed clinical psychologist. Working with a therapist is particularly effective for understanding your trauma, coping with symptoms, and creating a path toward healing and recovery. Although it may take time, making the commitment to engage in regular trauma therapy will help you manage your symptoms and can significantly improve your quality of life.
If you’re looking for trauma therapy in Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, West Hollywood, or the surrounding area, we encourage you to contact Blair Wellness Group. We utilize a variety of proven therapies and treatments as part of a customized treatment program to help our clients cope with and heal from trauma. Call 310.999.4996 to schedule an appointment.
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