How to Reach a Person Suffering from Trauma

Millions of Americans struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and countless more are dealing with the effects of minor trauma on a regular basis. It can be difficult to know what to do when your loved one has been through a traumatic event. You may try to support them and encourage them, only to be met with a response that is irritable or distant. Your loved one may seem disconnected from family life, withdrawing to their room and avoiding group activities. Today, we’ll discuss trauma and when it’s appropriate to conduct a mental health intervention.

What Does Trauma Look Like?

Traumatic experiences involve a threat to one’s safety, but any major situations that leave someone feeling overwhelmed can lead to lasting trauma, even if it doesn’t involve any physical harm. Any time that a person – particularly a child or young adult – feels incredibly helpless and frightened, they have the potential to develop PTSD.

Emotional and psychological trauma can take many forms, and they may be the result of one-time events, long-term stress, or major life events.

One-time events include injuries, accidents, or violent attacks, especially those that were unexpected or happened in childhood.

Long-term stress usually means someone found themselves in a difficult situation for months or years at a time. They may have grown up in a dangerous neighborhood, experienced abuse from a family member, or been neglected as a child.

Commonly overlooked causes of trauma include major life events like medical procedures, the loss of a loved one, the end of an important relationship, or experiencing something humiliating or deeply disappointing.

Regardless of the cause, trauma can create a lasting impact on those who experience it. When we go through something painful, it can take a long time to feel safe again. While some individuals may recover on their own, this is not the case for everyone.

Is My Loved One Traumatized?

If you know someone who has recently been through a traumatic event, such as an assault or accident, you’ve probably observed some changes in their behavior. It’s not uncommon for victims of trauma to “shut down” or become distant after the event. They might stop participating in family life, become irritable, or seem numb. The items listed below are signs that your loved one may not be coping well.

Emotional and psychological symptoms of trauma include:

  • Irritability and mood swings
  • Anxiety, fear, and panic attacks
  • Feelings of guilt and shame
  • Withdrawing from others
  • Numbness or feeling disconnected from others

Physical symptoms may include:

  • Sleep problems: insomnia, nightmares
  • Feelings of fatigue
  • Agitation and edginess
  • Being easily startled
  • Confusion and difficulty concentrating
  • Racing heartbeat
  • Aches, pains, and muscle tension
  • Increased substance use

How Can I Help?

The support of family and friends is critical as your loved one comes to terms with a traumatic event. It is difficult to see someone you love deal with the aftermath of an assault or accident. You may find yourself worrying about them and struggling to understand their emotional reactions to what has happened.

Trauma can disrupt a sufferer’s entire life, including their thoughts, actions, and relationships with others. Untreated PTSD can be debilitating, yet those in its grasp may not be in a state of mind to find solutions on their own. It often takes an outside perspective to help convince someone that it is time to seek help. When carefully organized by professionals, mental health interventions are a proven, effective way to guide traumatized individuals to treatment.

If you are close to a person who is struggling with a traumatic event, we encourage you to contact us for more information about staging a sensitive, carefully planned intervention. Our team includes an advising psychiatrist, who can make clinical recommendations for this delicate conversation. With professional planning and execution, mental health interventions can help to guide your loved one toward wellness and recovery. Call 512-722-7566 today to learn more about planning an intervention with Whitman Recovery Service.