The term “trauma” is commonly used in our world today. In fact, we have witnessed several events recently publicized across news media that have been traumatic for many people in different ways. It is also very likely you have experienced something significant during your lifetime that you label as traumatic.
The experience of trauma is unique for each individual, but typically involves experiencing or witnessing an event that is physically threatening to one’s physical self or personal integrity (i.e. a car accident resulting in serious physical injury, or, receiving a diagnosis of a terminal illness). Other examples of traumatic experiences may include military combat, violent personal assault, being kidnapped, or a natural disaster. People may experience trauma as a single incident, multiple incidents, or chronic stress over the course of a lifetime. Most significantly, trauma is an individual experience.
If you or someone you care for has experienced a trauma, you might notice new or different emotional symptoms after the event. For instance, as a caregiver you may notice mood changes in the person you care for, such as an increase in depressive symptoms (for example, tearfulness or a lack of energy). Your loved one might stop enjoying activities they used to enjoy before the traumatic experience. They may appear withdrawn. Changes in appetite or sleep pattern may be present (for example, trouble falling or staying asleep).
If you have experienced a trauma, you may notice an increase in nightmares after the event. You may avoid situations that remind you of the incident and trigger strong emotions (for example, avoiding driving on a road where a car accident occurred). Sometimes, people feel like they are re-experiencing the event, which can feel like a hallucination or “flashback.”
Attempting to find normalcy in your life can be very difficult after a trauma. Both survivors of trauma and their family and friends are impacted in multiple ways. If you would like to learn more about trauma and its impact, or need help finding services, please try using the following resources:
• The American Psychological Association (http://www.apa.org/topics/trauma/index.aspx).
• The National Center for Trauma-Informed Care (http://www.samhsa.gov/nctic/).
• 2-1-1 Big Bend offers a 24/7 emergency hotline and referral service in the Big Bend region (http://211bigbend.net/).
• NAMI Tallahassee providers support services to consumers are caregivers (www.nami-tallahassee.org/).
• The Apalachee Center, Inc. provides a multitude of behavioral health services (www.apalacheecenter.org).
• Insurance providers often list private practitioners who specialize in trauma services (call or check your individual plan’s website.) If you or a loved one has experienced a trauma, remember that you are not alone. There are many individuals who have similar experiences and agencies ready to provide help and support.
Jennifer Barr, MSW, LCSW is a graduate of the Florida State University. Jennifer is currently the FACT Team Leader at Apalachee Center and has an extensive background in mental health and substance abuse treatment as well as trauma-informed care. She currently serves as a co-facilitator of the Circuit 2 Trauma Informed Care Workgroup in Tallahassee, FL and is an adjunct professor at the Florida State University College of Social Work.
by Jennifer Barr, LCSW