Understanding Trauma and How It Affects Your Daily Life

A woman holding her hand over her face.

Trauma or traumatic experiences are complex, shocking, or dangerous situations that someone witnesses or undergoes, causing them to have high-stress levels that harm their physical, mental, and emotional well-being. (Image: Fizkes via Dreamstime)

Throughout life, we face events and challenges that put us to the test and leave us feeling intense, heavy, negative emotions. Trauma and traumatic experiences are complex, shocking, or dangerous situations that someone witnesses or undergoes, causing them to have high-stress levels that harm their physical, mental, and emotional well-being. 

People at any age can suffer from this, and while some manage to overcome these intense emotions with the proper support, others battle with them for most of their lives.

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What causes trauma? 

This can come from any adverse experience that causes overwhelming emotions and stress. It can stem from one-time events, repetitive occurrences, relentless distress, or long-lasting experiences affecting everyone differently. 

Transgenerational trauma is when the experiences of parents affect the development of their children — and sometimes even their grandchildren. Also known as intergenerational trauma, it can show up biologically, socially, mentally, or emotionally. 

Historical trauma results from the collective experience of a community or generation, such as genocide, economic depression, or war.

However, there are also emotional and psychological aspects on an individual that affect their sense of security, self, safety, and stability. 

Historical trauma results from the collective experience of a community or generation, such as genocide, economic depression, or war.
Historical trauma results from the collective experience of a community or generation, such as genocide, economic depression, or war. (Image: Rafael Ben Ari via Dreamstime)

Situations that make a person feel helpless, frightened, unsafe, hurt, or alone can be the root of individual trauma. Here are some common examples:

  • Bullying
  • Domestic abuse
  • Neglect and abandonment
  • Heartbreak
  • Death of a loved one (grief)
  • Betrayal
  • Physical pain/injury/severe illness
  • Relentless stress 
  • Early childhood trauma
  • Terrorism and violent crime
  • Sexual assault/harassment

How does trauma affect me?

Such major shocks alter the brain’s chemistry, which means that even if the incident is over, the person can continue to feel its effects. 

Think of it like your brain keeping this intense shock in a box, and when triggered by something that reminds you of the incident, this causes a response or reaction (fear, panic, shock, anxiety). Some common mental impacts are:

  • Flashbacks
  • Disassociation
  • Panic attacks
  • Low self-esteem
  • Isolation
  • Sleep deprivation

This leaves a person vulnerable to mental health problems and can develop into post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). People tend to develop coping mechanisms, such as drugs or alcohol, to cope with these memories and difficult emotions.

When trauma leads to a tornado of emotions, some people turn to self-harm, looking for a release. Self-harm and self-injury are any forms of hurting oneself on purpose. Usually, when people self-harm, they do not do so as a suicide attempt. Instead, they self-harm as a way to release painful emotions.

Unlike physical wounds and scars, trauma doesn't present itself at first glance. However, its effects run deep and can begin to influence your day-to-day life.
Unlike physical wounds and scars, trauma doesn’t present itself at first glance. However, its effects run deep and can begin to influence your day-to-day life. (Image: Poorisitchunpiam1995 via Dreamstime)

Trauma and daily life

Unlike physical wounds and scars, trauma doesn’t present itself at first glance. However, its effects run deep and can begin to influence your day-to-day life. 

Emotions

Negative emotions like despair, helplessness, shame, anger, and loneliness are common reactions. These feelings can arise abruptly or when triggered anytime during the day. In addition, mood swings can make you irritable, unpleasant to be around, or even feel like someone that isn’t yourself. 

Unstable emotions can make you feel like you aren’t in control of your life anymore, quickly leading you to vices like substance abuse to help numb the pain.

Self-care

A person going through something traumatic may find it challenging to look after themselves daily. Because of its impact, they may lose their sense of self and neglect their needs like personal hygiene. 

This can affect your eating habits and can cause eating disorders. It can also prevent you from enjoying leisurely activities or activities you used to enjoy. 

Relationships

The emotional distress that comes with trauma can strain your daily relationship with your friends, family, and close relationships. As a result, you may experience difficulty relating or connecting with others, causing you to withdraw from them and social activities. 

You may also distrust people and struggle to open up to others, express yourself, and manage your emotions. 

Work

Trauma affects how we function, thus also influencing daily productivity. Simple, routine tasks at work can become a big feat to accomplish. 

Task avoidance, loss of motivation, poor decision making, lack of concentration, unsatisfactory performance, and absenteeism are some effects of trauma on your work. It can also cause low self-esteem, causing you to doubt yourself and your abilities. 

It’s important to remember that each person feels these emotions in their own way, so there’s no definite answer, pattern, or limit to what it can do to a person. 

Seeking support for trauma

Overcoming these blows may seem complicated, but it’s not impossible. With the proper support and help from a specialist and trusted family and friends, you can conquer its effects and build a better, healthier future for yourself. 

It’s never too late to seek help, no matter how long ago the traumaticexperience occurred. First, reach out to your general practitioner to find which options are available for you. 

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