As children, because of love, affection and care given to us, we tend to form three basic assumptions about the world and people.
The overall goodness of the world and its people
The world is meaningful and fair
I am a good person
Extreme life events shatter these beliefs unexpectedly; the emotional turmoil after experiencing these events is trauma. Common traumatic events are physical, sexual or emotional abuse, dysfunctional families, divorce, bullying, death of a loved one, relocation, accidents, diagnosis of a serious medical condition, natural calamities, terrorist attacks etc.
Experiencing such events, at any stage in life, is a serious concern. These experiences shatter our basic assumptions, making us feel helpless, guilty, depressed, scared, threatened, hyper-vigilant, insecure and confused. This is what we call Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). It is extremely important to manage these emotions to resolve shattered beliefs.
Unresolved traumas can lead to some mental health concerns such as Depression, Anxiety, difficulty with sleep, developing irrational fears, addiction, self-harm.
Depression: Because our basic assumption that “the world and people are good” and “everything is fair” is shattered, we find it difficult to form social relations and connect with people. Our need to belong to any group (such as family, friends, classmates, colleagues, art groups, sports groups, etc.) is a basic emotional human need. Because of trauma, we find it difficult to trust others, failing to build a connection, leaving us feeling like we don’t belong anywhere and thus, we isolate ourselves. This is one of the symptoms of depression.
Anxiety: This is similar to Depression, and results from shattered beliefs, so trusting others doesn’t come easy. Therefore, you may feel anxious around people, worried about scrutiny by others, scared that you won’t be helped if needed. During an Anxiety attach, feeling restless, hyper-vigilant, sweating, trembling, feeling breathless is common.
Difficulty with sleep: Nightmares and flashbacks are common in PTSD. Because of these symptoms, you may not feel well-rested even after you get ample sleep. As a result, you will feel tired and fatigued, leaving you feeling Depressed and Anxious.
Addiction: Smoking, drinking and drugs offer instant relief from emotional pain, therefore, such substances are consumed more and more. However, they do not resolve the pain.
Self-harm: People turn towards self-harm to relieve emotional pain. Unresolved trauma does nothing but affects your mental-wellbeing. Therefore, people turn towards self-harm to escape and cope with negative emotions and thoughts.
What can be done?
Being aware and accepting symptoms of trauma is the first step toward healing. Even though it may be difficult to trust others, asking for help will make the process easier. Speak to a Psychologist or a Psychiatrist. A common notion people have is that you must be “mad” to see a Psychologist. Mental health professionals offer treatment for distressing thoughts and emotions. If you are not doing well emotionally, it is a good reason to ask for help - it is like taking antibiotics for an infection. The process may be difficult but going for counselling is important for your overall mental well-being.