Unresolved pain from the past can cause other issues
What Is Trauma?
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), “Individual trauma results from an event, series of events, or set of circumstances that is experienced by an individual as physically or emotionally harmful or life-threatening and that has lasting adverse effects on the individual’s functioning and mental, physical, social, emotional, or spiritual well-being.”
When it comes to traumatic experiences, we may think of physical or sexual assault, near-death experiences, natural disasters, or significant injuries. But the truth is that trauma is not always easy to recognize. While one kind of trauma can be tied to a specific event, another kind may result from multiple incidents that can’t always be traced back to specific dates and times.
Sometimes trauma happens immediately or over a short period of time; other times, it happens over a long period, in a way that a person may not even have recognized as being traumatic. The common thread, however, is damage to a person’s mental, physical, or emotional health.
Childhood Traumatic Experiences
Meadows Senior Fellow Dr. Bessel van der Kolk and colleagues at the National Child Traumatic Stress Network reviewed thousands of cases of childhood trauma and identified what they termed developmental trauma disorder. This condition is typified by “a pervasive pattern of [emotional] dysregulation, problems with attention and concentration, and difficulties getting along with themselves and others.”
While the results may be similar, trauma in childhood can stem from a variety of experiences including physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, bullying, medical trauma (such as a major surgery or long-term illness), grief over a loved one, violence in the community, or a natural disaster. Any of these events can leave a child feeling intensely threatened, and they may have long-term aftereffects if unaddressed.More On Childhood Trauma
Negative Effects of Trauma
There are many negative effects of trauma, but the severity of these effects may vary. “Trauma, including one-time, multiple, or long-lasting repetitive events, affects everyone differently,” SAMHSA’s TIP 57 states. Without intervention, a person’s thoughts, feelings, and memories related to the traumatic event may grow in complexity and depth. More severe and prolonged responses to trauma may include:
- Intense, disruptive memories
- Persistent exhaustion
- Sleep disturbances and disorders
- Physical sensations
- Fear and anxiety
- Continuous distress
These symptoms can drive the desire to self-medicate with mood-altering substances. Trauma is often an underlying cause of substance abuse and mental health conditions, and it must be resolved so that a person can fully heal and thrive again.
Trauma by the Numbers
According to The National Council:
- In the US alone, 70% of adults (over 220 million people) have experienced some type of traumatic event at least once in their lives.
- Approximately one in three young adults exposed to community violence will develop PTSD.
- 90% of clients in the public behavioral health system have experienced trauma.
- Trauma can stem from a number of events or circumstances, such as childhood abuse and neglect; witnessing acts of violence; war, accidents, and natural disasters; grief and loss; medical interventions; and physical, emotional, or sexual abuse.
Symptoms of Trauma
SAMHSA lists the following as signs someone may have experienced trauma:
- They avoid anything that reminds them of the event, even to the impairment of social relationships
- They have difficulty expressing themselves, easily become argumentative, and have problems concentrating
- They are preoccupied with the event or set of circumstances and deal with intrusive memories or flashbacks
- Their sleeping and eating patterns become irregular or disrupted
- They experience physical symptoms unconnected to sickness or physical exertion, such as nausea, back pain, migraines, elevated heartbeat, sweating, or extreme fatigue
- Their activity level decreases, they engage in high-risk behaviors, and they confess to having bouts of suicidal thinking
- Their perception of time and space is distorted, or they have memory problems related to the event
- They become hopeless, disillusioned, and increasingly cynical about life
Individuals can experience healing from traumatic events that restores their well-being, self-esteem, and willingness to engage in life activities. Fortunately, full recovery is possible and well worth the effort.
Trauma Treatment at The Meadows
At The Meadows, our approach to trauma treatment is informed by the expertise, experience, and foundational work of our Senior Fellows, including Pia Mellody, Dr. Peter Levine, Dr. Claudia Black, and Dr. Bessel van Der Kolk. Their work has influenced our treatment model as well as the modern behavioral health approach to trauma and addiction recovery. People who felt hopeless and entrenched in the effects of their trauma have experienced life change and healing through our program.
If you or a loved one is seeking recovery from trauma, addiction, or mental health conditions, please get in touch with our team today. We can tell you more about our program and help you determine the best next steps on your journey to healing.
The Meadows and Claudia Black Young Adult Center Earn ASAM Certification
Awarded based on comprehensive criteria for outcome-oriented, results-based addiction treatment, we’re so proud to be one of the first to receive this distinction! ASAM certification numbers are not scores or ratings, instead 3.5 and 3.7 correlate to levels of care and intensity of services we provide.Read More
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