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  • Writer's pictureJelena Rados MSW Intern

Emotional Trauma - What Is It and How to Start your Healing Journey

Updated: Nov 5, 2023

As I researched, I came across the simplest of explanations of Emotional Trauma, that I would like to share with you: Emotional trauma can result from any type of traumatic experience that causes overwhelming amounts of stress that exceed one's ability to cope and integrate the emotions involved. Emotional trauma is more about the nervous system's ability to regulate stress and integrate emotions than it is about the actual event.


When we hear the word trauma, we tend to associate it as an emotional response to experiences such as witnessing acts of violence, being in a car accident, life-threatening illness, death/loss or enduring physical harm, including sexual abuse. However, emotional trauma can also result from situations like unhealthy relationships and treatment from others (be it peers, family members, romantic relationships, toxic boss/colleagues etc.), living in crime-ridden neighborhoods and it includes non-psychical forms of abuse (verbal abuse, psychological abuse, bullying, gaslighting etc.). It can be caused by a single event or by ongoing exposure to stress. (It’s important to note that trauma is subjective. What traumatizes one person may not traumatize another person.)


Here are some common psychological and physical symptoms of emotional trauma. These symptoms can persist long after the stressful experience has ended.

Some of the Psychological Symptoms of Emotional Trauma include:

  • Difficulty with daily functioning

  • Anger, irritability

  • Depression

  • Anxiety

  • Mood swings

  • Guilt or shame

  • Self-blame

  • Difficulty focusing and memory issues, and decision making

  • Shock and disbelief

  • Sadness and loneliness

  • Difficulty engaging in social activities

  • Emotional numbness

  • Disassociation


Some of the Physical Symptoms of Emotional Trauma include:

  • Body aches and pains

  • Muscle tension

  • Jumpiness, getting startled easily

  • Lack of appetite or overeating

  • Racing heart

  • Difficulty sleeping (falling asleep, or waking up throughout the night, nightmares)

  • Fatigue

  • “Buzzing” sensation throughout your body



We often don’t anticipate that an event or relationship will lead to a traumatic experience. When it does, know that we can take steps to help ourselves heal. The goal is that we do what we can to regulate our nervous system. And we can start by taking care of our basic needs.


Tips on how to self-regulate the nervous system:


  1. Stay hydrated and eat nourishing and feel-good foods throughout the day. Especially upon waking, it’s important to replenish and refuel.

  2. Create a sleep routine to get back on track. Start by going to bed at the same time every night and listen to a guided sleep meditation to help you clear your thoughts and sink into a deep sleep. Quality sleep is key.

  3. Keep moving. Movement and exercise help to repair the nervous system and release tension. You can choose an indoor or outdoor activity, and whether to keep it light or challenge yourself. I.e., You can dance it out at home or take a dance class.

4. Stay connected with others. You can keep it simple for now and start with visiting a friend or two for a movie night and share some laughs. It’s a healthy distraction. And healthy connections help us build positive memories, uplift our mood and view of the world.

  1. Engage in grounding practices. They help you focus on the present moment, calm your nervous system and allow it to rest. Some grounding techniques to get you started are breathwork, visualization and self-talk. Check out the link in the references section for more information and additional techniques.


Yes, emotional trauma can be debilitating. At times like this, it’s okay to seek support from friends and family. And it’s more than okay to seek professional help. At Psychotherapy for You, we have therapists that offer talk therapy combined with evidenced-based treatments, to help you along your healing journey.


EMDR therapy is supported by scientific research on its effects to help treat trauma and other mental and physical health conditions. To learn more about this effective technique click here. https://www.psychotherapyforyou.ca/emdr-therapy-services


References



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