Knowing the Signs of Trauma

Pyramid Online Counseling      Mental Health  
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Sad adult woman sitting on dark home corridor floor.

“Trauma is personal. It does not disappear if it is not validated. When it is ignored or invalidated the silent screams continue internally heard only by the one held captive. When someone enters the pain and hears the screams, healing can begin.”

Danielle Bernock, Emerging With Wings: A True Story of Lies, Pain, And The LOVE that Heals

A traumatic event impacts different people in different ways, and may or may not continue to plague their lives as time goes on. Those who are able to undergo a traumatic event and process the thoughts, feelings and emotions in a brief amount of time, might not feel the lasting effects of trauma. Others who continuously feel overwhelmed by the trauma may need to take more intervening steps to experience healing. 

What is trauma? 

Trauma is the response to an event which is incredibly distressing and/or disturbing. It inhibits one’s ability to cope and feel a full range of emotions, it causes helplessness and it negatively impacts one’s sense of self. Simply put, trauma hurts one’s emotional, physical, mental and spiritual stability. 

What causes trauma? 

A situation does not need to escalate into war, a natural disaster or a devastating accident to cause trauma. Trauma can be caused through a catastrophic event like any of the above, but it can also occur through long-term exposure to critically stressful experiences. Such experiences that cause trauma overtime include: 

  • Physical, sexual or emotional abuse
  • Racism, oppression or discrimination
  • Witnessing or being victim to violence or terrorism
  • Neglect, especially as a child
  • Living with someone struggling with a substance use disorder or mental health disorder
  • The death of a loved one, especially in the case of suicide
  • Domestic violence
  • Rape

This list is not all-inclusive, as individuals process trauma and experience trauma in varying ways. 

Signs of trauma 

Just as traumatic situations vary, so too do the signs of trauma vary. Unlike listing the symptoms of a cold, it’s not quite as easy to list the symptoms of trauma. However, there are signs which do appear to be more common and consistent in individuals who’ve undergone a traumatic experience, and which can be a starting point from which counselors can diagnose and begin the treatment of trauma. 

Signs fall into separating categories, including emotional, behavioral, physical and cognitive changes.

Emotional 

  • Shame or guilt
  • Difficulty feeling positive emotions
  • Anger or irritability
  • Depression
  • Anxiety 
  • Panic attacks
  • Emotional shock
  • Numbness

Behavioral 

  • Avoidance behaviors, like staying away from people/places/things that trigger memories of the event
  • Lack of interest in social events and previously enjoyed activities/hobbies
  • Easily irritated or quick to lash out
  • Reckless or self-destructive behavior 
  • Keeping busy all the time to avoid thinking about the traumatic event/situation

Physical

  • Constant exhaustion and fatigue
  • Edginess, or being easily startled
  • Changes in eating and/or sleeping patterns
  • Headaches and achiness in the body

Cognitive

  • Intrusive thoughts of the events
  • Flashbacks
  • Nightmares
  • Intense emotional distress as a response to something reminding one of the event
  • Inability to concentrate or recall memories
  • An overwhelming sense of fear

Again, this list of symptoms is not all-inclusive, but the manifestation of these signs, along with an experience which could be classified as traumatic, can be a concrete indicator of trauma in one’s life.

Identifying trauma

The first step to addressing trauma begins with the recognition that there might be a connection between patterns of behavior in your life to events which occurred in the past, that had a lasting effect on your mind and spirit. 

Perhaps the event was obvious, such as an act of violence; maybe the event was not one isolated incident, but a chain of events defining your up-bringing. The latter can be more difficult to pinpoint, especially if the trauma was experienced as a child. What you grew up with could be considered “normal” in your mind, until certain realizations bring about the truth, what characterized your childhood is not normal at all and had a lasting, negative impact on your wellbeing. 

Coming to such realizations on your own can take time, patience and a strong sense of self-awareness. It’s not impossible to recognize trauma in your own life, but it can take longer to heal when you’re attempting to identify and address it alone. 

Seeking trauma healing and treatment

When it comes to diagnosing and addressing trauma, healing is best brought about with the trained guidance of a trauma-informed therapist. These individuals not only have experience with trauma, but they are trained to see individuals as more than just another trauma case. They help individuals experience healing by taking the time to understand their personal story, their life experiences and their individual methods of coping with trauma. Through this understanding, a personalized treatment plan can be created to promote permanent, lasting healing.

To speak with a trauma-informed therapist today, contact Pyramid Online Counseling at 833-525-3077.

3 Powerful Benefits of Online Counseling for Students

Pyramid Online Counseling      Treatment & Therapy  
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Online consultation of female teenager by social worker psychologist teacher. Virtual meeting, using video call on home computer. Technologies, communication, help, mental health of adolescents

The idea of counseling can sound scary, especially for students who have never done it before. It may also worry them to think that they have to add another commitment to their already busy schedules. Counseling can actually provide some of the most benefit to students who are going through huge changes and periods of stress, but may not know how to deal with it all.

Online counseling in particular can help students with:

Coping with stress

School is difficult and stressful. As adults, we may have the tendency to discredit the stress that students go through, mostly unconsciously, because they don’t have to worry about the things we do like working full-time and paying the bills. Let’s think about this from the student’s perspective, though. They wake up early to go to school every day; if they’re in high school or younger than their entire day is planned for them, and if they’re in college then they’re figuring out how to structure their own days for the very first time. They take classes in several different subjects and have daily homework assignments from each of them. They prepare for tests and do group projects that make up a large portion of their grades. They are still trying to figure out how the world works while learning new things, forming and losing relationships, participating in sports or other extracurricular activities. They’re away from home working their first jobs, experiencing physical changes and sometimes dealing with mental health issues.

Add a weekly counseling appointment on top of that, and it’s quite easy for a student to feel overwhelmed. Online counseling fits nicely into the lives of busy students because it is more accessible and doesn’t require additional driving to a new location every week. Students will be able to attend counseling from the comfort of their own homes, which can make them feel more at ease both with the idea of counseling and the actual session. Counseling shouldn’t make them feel more stressed, so doing it from home makes it as easy and comfortable as possible.

Creating methods for keeping themselves on track

Students can quickly feel overwhelmed with all of their commitments, from school to studying to friends to extracurriculars and more. Some students are naturally skilled at using a planner and disciplining themselves, but other students need a bit of extra help in this regard. A counselor can work with the student to identify any blockers to their productivity or motivation and use that to inform a treatment plan. Treatment doesn’t necessarily need to mean medication, a student’s therapist may give them “homework” to try different productivity methods, write in a journal, make a to-do list and keep notes of what is working and what is not.

Counseling is also a great tool for teaching students accountability and responsibility. With their homework from counseling, students will learn how to be accountable not only to themselves but to another person. Their counselor will hold them to the commitments they made in the previous session and will check in on their progress. Although it is lower stakes than meeting expectations in school or at work, progress in counseling can be a sign of great progress in the future.

Adhering to a routine

Students do best when they have a reliable, predictable routine. Because online counseling can be done from home, it can easily fit in with their existing routine or be what motivates them to set a new one. Counseling is often done on a weekly basis, so it can be slotted in once the student gets home from school or before they leave for sports practice. Their counselor can also help the student to create a routine for all of their other activities while planning how to fit in homework, social obligations, self-care, and counseling homework.

Pyramid Online Counseling offers secure and confidential online counseling for students struggling to cope with stress, anxiety, depression and other mental disorders. Reach out today at 833-525-3077 to learn how counseling can benefit the student in your life.

How to Overcome Grief and Move Toward Healing

Pyramid Online Counseling      Grief & Loss  
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Woman is packing things of her dead husband

The emotion of grief can be felt whenever there is a significant loss in a person’s life. That gut-wrenching feeling can be felt whether you experience the death of a loved one, divorce or a breakup, lose your job or go through a change in health.

Regardless of the reason, the sorrow that follows a loss can be overwhelming and difficult to manage. When you’re in the midst of grief it can feel like no one understands what you’re going through. While it’s true that no one has your exact experience, there are some common ways that many have found effective when learning how to overcome grief.

The stages of grief & loss

In the late 60s, psychiatrist Elizabeth Kübler-Ross developed her theory of the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Learning about the manifestations and purpose of these stages can help explain how to overcome loss. While each person struggles differently and the stages are by no means a linear experience, knowing some feelings you might encounter can make the journey easier.

Once you know the stages of grief, you’ll have a much easier time figuring out how to overcome loss. Listed below are the best ways to manage these feelings and find healing after hardship.

Attend a memorial service

Many people feel that being able to attend a funeral, wake, burial service, celebration of life or other memorial service can provide much needed closure. These events offer a setting for healing when you’re learning how to overcome loss. If a casket or ashes are present it allows for the opportunity to say goodbye, and tears can flow freely. While grieving in public generally feels abnormal, expressions of sorrow are commonplace at these events.

Attending a memorial service can greatly help in the denial stage.

Join a support group

Whatever trial led you to feelings of loss, there are bound to be others with the same experience who can offer their companionship. Grief groups are common for supporting those who have lost loved ones, and specific groups cater to unique situations (for those who have lost children or lost a loved one to overdose, for example).

Joining a support group can offer you a healthy and safe outlet for your emotions, rather than letting the anger stage get the best of you.

Share happy memories

One of the best ways to move forward after a loss is to reminisce on fond memories. Sharing memories out loud with friends and family is a healthy way to process a loss, and your stories could help others find peace, too. When close company isn’t present to share with, journaling or simply thinking over happy moments can ease the pain.

Sharing happy memories can help you bear through the bargaining stage of grief.

Make time for painful feelings

All too often people struggle to move on from the stages of grieving because they do not allow themselves the necessary time to heal before rushing back into the hustle and bustle of their normal lives. Feelings of loss may take a powerful toll on you for weeks or months, inhibiting our focus, our mood and our joy. When you give yourself a daily chance to mourn, you’ll find healing much faster. Try scheduling half an hour to look through old pictures, journal or have a good cry.

Making time to sit in your emotions can help in the depression phase. Releasing these emotions now will prevent you from bottling them up and dealing with them later.

Visit a mental health counselor

Mourning the loss of a loved one looks different for everyone, and sometimes it can feel like everyone else has already moved on and you’re dealing with the pain alone. If you need a listening ear as you process your emotions, or someone to ask the right question in a time of vulnerability, counseling can help. While grief can sometimes be managed with short-term intervention, starting counseling now could also be a gateway to getting support for other stresses in your life.

Getting help from a counselor can help you to journey into the stage of acceptance, where you acknowledge the loss but move forward with hope.

When to get help

Any experience of grief is a valid reason to get professional help. While many people process and cope through loss on their own, having companionship on your journey can make the road smoother. While anyone can benefit from grief counseling, some instances require more intensive intervention. If you are struggling to resume your day-to-day life due to overwhelming feelings of sadness, don’t wait to get the help you need.

If feelings of grief have kept you from living a full and fun life, contact Pyramid Online Counseling for help. With virtual counseling you can access the support you need from the comfort of your home. Call today at 833-525-3077.