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Addressing Trauma | Why Must It Be Done Without Delay?

Addressing Trauma | Why Must It Be Done Without Delay

Addressing Trauma | Why Must It Be Done Without Delay?


Traumatic events or upsetting incidents may occur suddenly, intrude into daily life and cause a significant emotional response. They are usually powerful, life-threatening or pose a threat to yourself or other people’s physical or emotional well-being. The response to a traumatic event can be influenced by a person’s physical and emotional health, available support system during the time of the traumatic event and survival skills.

Highly stressful events or situations that may cause trauma can happen to anyone. When unable to process them, you may feel helpless. Irrespective of the cause, there is generally that feeling of being exposed to the related risks and consequences. Thus, you may be left with feelings of fear, anxiousness and overwhelm. It can deactivate your innate abilities to adjust or process your stressful experience, so that you feel defenseless against negative thoughts. It can weaken your functioning and avert you from having a fulfilling life.

Trauma is a personal experience. Different people respond to it and are affected in different ways. There are people who can successfully work through their bad experiences without much difficulty. There are also those who become worse, developing PTSD or post-traumatic stress disorder a few days, weeks or months after the trauma. This is one of the important reasons why trauma must be professionally addressed.


Living with Trauma

 People react differently to potentially traumatic or distressing events. Some have strong emotional or physical reactions after experiencing an extraordinary stressful episode. While the trauma felt can result in difficulty in juggling day to day activities or overall functioning, the reactions usually take over a few days or weeks to subside. For others, however, the trauma-related difficulties may last longer and be more severe, depending on the nature of the harrowing event, availability of support and coping resources, level of stress, and personality.

Experiencing an emotional trauma can shatter your sense of security, and result in your feeling helpless and hopeless in a perceived dangerous world. The event or situation, even if they do not pose threat to life or safety, may cause you to feel overwhelmed and isolated. Living with trauma can leave you struggling with disconcerting thoughts, emotions and memories that do not go away. Your subjective emotional experience of the event can result in your feeling numb, disconnected, and suspicious of other people. The more frightened and helpless the feeling is, the higher the level of trauma.

Examples of situations and events that can lead to emotional trauma may include:


  • An accident or injury – serious motor vehicle crash, workplace mishap, animal attack
  • A natural disaster – earthquake, fire, floods
  • An act of terrorism – bombing, shooting, hostage taking
  • Acts of violence – domestic violence, rape, child abuse, bullying
  • Personal crisis – divorce, death of a loved one
  • On-going stress – illness, crime-laden or unstable neighborhood


Specific Trauma-Related Symptoms

Trauma is often the result of an overwhelming or intense fear, helplessness, or stress. The amount of trigger exceeds an individual’s ability to process or integrate the emotions resulting from the distressing event or situation. Whether you are personally involved or a witness to a terrible occurrence, the emotional response may range from mild to a severe trauma-related disorder.

Some people with traumatic experience have innate skills to survive the shock. There may be short-term symptoms, such as lack of concentration and trouble sleeping, but these difficulties are resolved, enabling traumatized people to function again over time. As long as the symptoms do not impair and persist for too long, they can be considered typical reactions to trauma. Although they can be distressing, they usually settle rapidly. They are simply part of the natural healing process of muddling through a very powerful event, making some sense of the event, putting it into the right perspective, and moving on with life.

For others, though, longer term symptoms of trauma are more severe and warrant a proper diagnosis. The symptoms can be categorized as


  • Physical – excessive edginess, fatigue, nausea, general aches and pain
  • Cognitive – flashbacks, nightmares, disorientation and confusion
  • Behavioral – social withdrawal, isolation and loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
  • Emotional – depression, anger, anxiety and panic


With severe trauma, the most common diagnoses are Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Acute Stress Disorder (ASD). Trauma can also precipitate the onset of other emotional and behavioral disorders, particularly substance abuse and various personality disorders.


Warning Signs that Cry for Help

Most people can work through their reactions following a traumatic event on their own or with support from family and friends. There may be an initial reduction in their physical and emotional response, but the difficulties begin to subside in a week or two. There are, however, warning signs that are too distressing and may continue to last long after the incident. These signs indicate that professional help is warranted, which may include


  • Inability to effectively process intense feelings or physical sensations
  • Emotional numbness and emptiness
  • Severe fear, anxiety or depression
  • Distressing thoughts and emotions
  • Experiences of disturbed sleep, endless nightmares, terrifying memories
  • Increasing dependence on alcohol or drugs
  • Strained relationship with family, friends and community
  • Absence or lack of support from people to share emotions with


If the trauma is severe, PTSD can possibly develop. According to the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual-V2, the condition has “four symptom clusters: intrusion symptoms, avoidance, negative alterations in cognitions and mood, and alterations in arousal and reactivity.” Psychology Today shares the eight most common emotional and cognitive indicators of PTSD. These are:


  • Sleep Difficulties
  • Anger
  • Numbness and Disconnection
  • Depression
  • Chronic Anxiety
  • Reliving the Trauma
  • Feeling Unsafe
  • Thoughts of Suicide


They may also manifest difficulty in maintaining a healthy relationship with their loved ones, peers and people in the workplace. They are like to have low self-esteem, perform poorly in school or at work. They may have the tendency to avoid places and events that remind them of the traumatic experience, so they change their lifestyle, hobbies and even jobs/careers. One way of coping with their excessive fear is by adopting ineffective adjustment strategies, such as using drugs or drinking alcohol.


Highlighting the Importance of Early Treatment

Working through trauma can be scary, upsetting and may potentially stir the painful memories and feelings anew. If you think avoiding or pushing the hurting feelings away, think again because trauma will only become worse every time a trigger emerges or whenever your guard is down. It can be an exhausting cycle that will ultimately affect your health, functioning, relationships, and the quality of your life negatively.

If you or someone you care about is experiencing intense symptoms, it is important to address trauma right away. The sooner treatment is sought, the easier it is to resolve. Seeking help is not a sign of weakness, but a courageous thing to do in confronting and accepting a painful event as part of your past. The key is to do it with the guidance and support of a professional. When deciding to seek help, choosing the right therapist is very crucial. Meet the right fit professional independently contracted with Carolina Counseling Services – North Fayetteville Office – Fayetteville, NC.

It is very important to work with a highly trained and experienced trauma-specialist offering a safe and comfortable environment to assess and provide you with an appropriate treatment plan. Get started by making a phone call to schedule your first session. Your search for hope can end with counseling with a skilled counselor/therapist independently contracted with CCS – North Fayetteville Office – Fayetteville, NC. Call today!

Serving Areas: Carolina Counseling Services – Fayetteville, NC (North)

Counties: Cumberland, Bladen and Sampson Counties, NC

Areas: Fayetteville NC, Ft Bragg NC, Pope Field NC, Sliver City NC, Linden NC, Bunnlevel NC, Erwin NC, Dundarrach NC, Rex NC,and Wade, NC

Zip Codes: 28311, 28395, 28390, 28356

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Carolina Counseling Services – North Fayetteville Office, Fayetteville, NC

422 McArthur Road, Suite 2
FayettevilleNC 28311

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PO BOX 9909
Fayetteville, NC 28311

Choose your Therapist

  • Becky Clark, MSW, LCSW

    Specializes in: (Ages 18+) Anxiety, Depression, Individuals, Couples, Geriatrics, Criminal Justice, Stress Management, Loss and Grief related to death, disability, divorce, deployment, “empty nest”, retirement and other major life transitions
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    Location: Fayetteville, NC