Aimee Pearson

Psychologist serving San Diego area, #PSY24457

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Who we help >>  Adolescents > Adults > Elderly

What is Trauma?

Trauma is debilitating. Trauma symptoms can often feel life-threatening or overwhelming.

Causes of Trauma

Trauma can result from external events like an auto accident, natural disaster or loss of a loved one. More subtly, it can occur due to witnessing domestic violence or from poor attachment experiences as a child. Emotional, physical or sexual abuse can cause trauma as well as war experiences and medical surgery.

Symptoms of Trauma

• Hyperarousal: this can take the form of physical symptoms of increased heart rate, sweating, difficulty breathing, cold sweats, tingling and muscular tension. It also can manifest mentally with increased repetitious thoughts, racing minds, and worry.

• Constriction: when faced with life-threatening conditions, hyperarousal is accompanied by constriction of our bodies and narrowing of our perception. This is our body preparing itself to focus in a optimal way toward protecting against the threat. The problem is getting stuck in this place.

• Dissociation and Denial: this is how the self protects itself by “softening” the pain of escalating arrousal, fear and pain. Dissociation involves the self “leaving the scene” for protective purposes. Denial is a protective mechanism by which the self avoids acknowledging how serious the traumatic event was because the emotions tied to the event are simply too painful to experience.

• Feelings of Helplessness, Immobility and Freezing: If hyperarousal is the nervous system’ s accelerator, then one’s feelings of helplessness are the brakes. Having one’s accelerator and brakes on at the same time results is the phenomenon called “freeze.” It is a very common occurence of traumatic events,and contributes to feeling collapsed, immobilized and utterly helpless.

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