Unresolved trauma can be hard to spot. It can be confusing to undertrained therapist, physicians and patients alike. You may recognize it as a common meme idea: “Why am I like this?”
But beneath the humor might lie something you need to explore. We all have those times when we do something that surprises us. For some folks, this may actually sound like your default setting. It’s as if something unknown is motivating you.
If your behavior puzzles you, it only makes sense to figure out what’s going on.
The Importance of Understanding Trauma
Most people have a very specific idea about what trauma is. Thus, anything that doesn’t fall into that predetermined category may go unnoticed. But there are many types of trauma that are not a stereotypical huge upsetting event. Even so, they have the potential to affect people’s everyday life for a long time.
On top of that, symptoms of trauma may get blurred with other issues or even be mistaken for them. Translation: the more you know about trauma, the better equipped you are to manage its impact.
The first step involves learning ways to identify how unresolved trauma is covertly changing how you live your life.
Why It’s Not Always Simple to Recognize Unresolved Trauma
Trauma symptoms like flashbacks and nightmares are widely known. It’s to the point where they may be used as a plot point in a movie or TV show. Yet, the lesser-known signs are more insidious and, therefore, harder to spot.
There are many proven reasons why someone may feel disconnected or numb. This circumstance has become far too pervasive in the digital age. Mix in the volatile factors of 2020, and it’s logical that you wouldn’t connect this to trauma.
That said, people suffering from trauma will, for example, withdraw from others and find it difficult to sustain relationships. This increases the likelihood of detachment which, in turn, keeps the cycle churning.
This is another possible manifestation of trauma. In these unsettled times, many people joke about “being ADD”. They joke about being scattered or “all over the place” and treat it as “normal”. Confusion, difficulty concentrating, denial, and slipping into dissociation are common and familiar. But, they are also under-discussed hallmarks of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
The concentration of symptoms will often provoke the question we began with at the outset: “Why and I like this?”
PTSD may often manifest in an inability to self-regulate or self-soothe. The subsequent outcome could be any combination of these emotions and behaviors:
- Mood swings
- Appearing as needy or clinging
People often chalk up all of the above to general “stress” or a temporary setback. In reality, they could be a cluster of warning signs. You may need to entertain the possibility that you have some deep trauma to process and release.
It doesn’t get much trickier than when unresolved trauma rears its ugly head in the guise of bodily issues. For example:
- Muscles aches and tension
- Sleep disturbances
- Problems with digestion
- Sensory issues; e.g. heightened sensitivity to sound or touch
You may seek help from a general practitioner and end up taking painkillers or visiting a physical therapist. Either could offer temporary relief, but the trauma will remain unaddressed.
Dealing with Trauma Isn’t Easy Work, Don’t Go it Alone
Living with unresolved trauma is very challenging. Trying to discern where and how trauma is shaping your thoughts and behavior is a difficult process. It’s best to travel these parallel paths alongside a skilled mental health professional. Together with a therapist, you’ll be able to learn to break down patterns and discover underlying causes.
Therapy sessions will provide the safe space you need to work on finding new approaches and solutions. You will be seen, you will be heard, and you will be validated. Most crucially, your therapist will recognize and treat your trauma—moving you toward healing and recovery.
If you would like to find out more about my approach to trauma treatment, please feel free to contact my office.