As I explained in an earlier post, a connection between childhood trauma and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) has been confirmed via brain scans. It’s believed that chronic anxiety can be an unhealthy coping mechanism for those who have endured abuse, loss, neglect, and more. Basically, traumatic experiences — at any age — can send the survivor on an endless search for safety.

This search can lead them to behaviors later in life like detachment, self-blame, and, yes, anxiety. Until the trauma is processed and resolved, the survivor might see danger around every corner. This sets up the need for them to seek trauma treatment and learn how to cope with anxiety in the meantime.

The Trauma-Anxiety Connection

The earlier in life that trauma happens, the more deeply it is embedded. Brain scans show the trauma-anxiety connection, and this reality leaves us with a scenario in which about one-third of those under the age of 18 have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. In this cycle, survivors struggle to make healthy choices when it comes to healing. Instead, they may:

  • See themselves as the cause of the trauma
  • Do whatever they can — from dissociation to self-medication — to numb the pain
  • Get stuck in a perpetual state of fight-or-flight

These behaviors do not automatically mean you have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). But even if not, they put you at greater risk of PTSD. As a result, it’s vital to address anxiety issues through self-care and professional treatment.

How to Cope with Anxiety Stemming from Trauma Responses

woman making heart with her hands

Trauma-related anxiety shows up in teenage years and adulthood through signs like memory lapses, mood swings, unexplained physical issues, and lifestyle changes like risky behaviors and obsessive habits. Hence, to repeat, even though healing from trauma is your priority, calming anxiety is a very close second. Here are some fundamental suggestions:

Keep a Journal

This is an excellent way to identify and track your triggers. The more you know about what causes anxiety, the better prepared you are to manage it

Practice Self-Care

Here are just a few of the many possible elements of your self-care regimen:

  • Daily exercise
  • Make healthy eating and drinking choices (avoid anything that can increase feelings of anxiety)
  • Keep a regular sleep routine
  • Cultivate relaxation techniques
  • Come up with ways to divert your mind from stress and worry, e.g. mellow music, distractions like crossword puzzles, and getting outside for a walk
  • Seek out reasons to laugh every single day

Be Your Own #1 Fan

Make it a priority to acknowledge and celebrate your progress and accomplishments as you move along the road to recovery. Retraining yourself to lean into positive events is a crucial component of your self-care.

Connect With Others

Do not self-isolate — no matter how tempting it feels. Develop a support system made up of trusted friends and family members. To connect with folks who will understand your struggles, seek out a support group (online or in person). Another powerful option is to commit to helping others through volunteer work and random acts of kindness.

Work With a Trauma-Informed Therapist

You’ll need a mental health practitioner who has the experience you need to help you resolve trauma and the versatility to treat anxiety at the same time. In your quest for safety, a therapy room can be an ideal setting. It’s where you can learn all about what has happened and how. Working closely with your therapist, you replace dysfunctional coping skills with productive healthy pathways and choices.

You definitely do not have to keep struggling with trauma and anxiety. With proper guidance, you can heal and thrive again. I’d love to help make this happen so let’s connect and talk soon.