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Self Help for Trauma

by Laura Russell Ph.D., MFT

A trauma is a sudden, abrupt and dangerous experience. Most studies show that if a person thought they or someone else were going to die during the traumatic event, that person will have symptoms of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. 

Examples of traumas are: Rape or attempted rape, violent crime, earthquake, fire, political torture, airplane crash, manmade disaster, accidents, explosions, child abuse, care taking role in trauma, gang violence, natural disaster, war, witnessing a trauma. 

The single most important fact for you to know about traumatic experiences is that the symptoms are completely NORMAL. These symptoms can include: 

__Repeatedly remembering the event.
__Dreaming about the trauma.
__Loosing interest in your life.
__Feeling separated from others.
__Not experiencing many feelings.
__Being on alert all the time.
__Trouble sleeping.
__Feeling guilty.
__Trouble remembering things.
__Beginning to avoid your life.
__Reacting to things that resemble your trauma.
__Feeling sad about what happened.
__Finding the need to talk and talk about the trauma.
__Troubles with intimacy.
__Troubles with relationships.
__Feeling like you cannot control yourself.
__Developing an eating disorder.
__Developing a drinking disorder.
__Developing a chemical abuse disorder.

You can use this information to give yourself support to help you make healthy choices and nurture yourself with self-talk. 

For example, knowing that people who have had a traumatic event are at risk of developing a drinking disorder can help you choose another way to comfort yourself. It can also show you that you need help with your drinking and lead you to 
Alcoholics Anonymous.

Lets say you are having trouble sleeping with nightmares about your trauma that wake you up. Instead of pouring yourself a drink or two or six at night, you tell yourself that these nightmares are normal. Okay, not a symptom that something is wrong with you. 

Then, when you awake, you might journal to comfort yourself, or take a bath, listen to some calming music or read a book.

What happens to people that makes their experience much worse is that they awake in a nightmare, and begin negative self-talk about it. They judge their experience to mean something is really wrong with them and in their life. So you end up with the nightmare, the fear that you are going crazy, and a drinking problem. 

Knowing that your nightmares are normal for someone with your life experiences can help you avoid harming yourself any further. Then you can take care of yourself like you would a good friend.

Compliments of Laura Russell, Ph.D., MFT
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