Psychosocial Factors Associated with Trauma Response
People respond to trauma through developing different psychological conditions:
Denial, Shock, or Disbelief
People who suffered loss of loved ones, terrible accidents, war, natural disasters and alcoholic dependents respond to trauma through shock, denial, or disbelief (Yehuda et al., 2000). They are in denial about what is happing in their lives. Sometimes, they become defensive about their conditions. They may choose not to speak with people they once loved as they are still in shock. Others resort to alcohol and substance abuse as an alternative to dealing with the trauma. It constitutes denial. Those affected by traumatic experiences are still in disbelief perhaps due to the fact that the trauma-triggering events happened so fast, but there was nothing they could have done to prevent them (Yehuda et al., 2000).
Anger, Mood Swings, Irritability
Most people who have survived serious traumatic experiences are jumpy and can start at anything. They are emotionally insecure. They have mood swings, so it is difficult to predict their reactions. During one moment, they can be jovial; during another one they are sad. Emotional outbursts are common among these people (Yehuda & McEwen, 2004). Some lack focus; they are easily irritated by what others say or think about them. At the workplace, these individuals may fail to concentrate on assigned duties. They develop hostility towards colleagues, a factor that could interfere with job delivery.
Guilt, Self-blame, Shame
Victims of trauma may feel guilty and instead of focusing on how they can move on, blame themselves. They ask: what did they do wrong? They feel embarrassed about their situation and avoid social gatherings and events that will expose them to other people. Another act of shame occurs when they avoid reminders of traumatic experience (Yehuda & McEwen, 2004). Victims feel that something is naturally not right with them. It could lead to them hurting or abusing themselves. Some choose to react negatively by hurting other people to compensate for their own pain.
Feeling Disconnected and Numb
When one lacks trust, he/she brings about disconnectin. Post-trauma victims feel numb and do not want to confide in other people. When horrific things happen, it may take some time for the victims to accept the pain and feel secure again. Getting over terrible events depends on an individual, the support they get and the severity of the traumatic event (Yehuda et al., 2000). Psychotherapists suggest that the sooner one becomes positive and shares their feelings with relatives and support groups, the faster they will recover (Yehuda & McEwen, 2004).
Feeling Sad or Hopeless
Post-trauma victims may feel intense sadness, hopelessness, helplessness and worthlessness, factors that can recur and prevent them from functioning normally. In worse circumstances, depression follows. Other related symptoms to sadness include depressed moods for most of the day, fatigue, loss of appetite, poor concentration, insomnia, and disinterest in activities one enjoyed before the trauma.
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Analysis of Psychosocial Factors
A new research at Howard University discovered that being positive about life could help to reduce the potential psychological long-term effects of trauma and speed up recovery for victims who develop trauma-related psychological conditions (Yehuda & McEwen, 2004). The results showed a considerable correlation between purpose in life and the recovery process. Analysts suggest that there exists a relationship between developing a purpose in life and recovering from a psychiatric trauma-related disorder (Yehuda & McEwen, 2004). Study respondents were 260 Africa-Americans, who at one moment in their lives experienced a traumatic incident. The study was meant to address the insufficient evidence for conclusive treatment of psychiatric disorders related to trauma. Study participants were classified into three groups:
- 47 participants fitted the resilient sub-groups
- 87 were identified to have recovered from DSM-IV diagnosis
- 127 were identified with the current condition
Overlapping Patterns and Responses to Trauma
The outcomes of the research indicate that people respond to trauma differently: reactively, passively and proactively. Proactive responses include adapting to the conditions, accepting wwhat happened, and adjusting emotionally and positively (Yehuda & McEwen, 2004). Reactive responses mostly take place long after a stressful incident. A passive response entails numbness and ignorance towards a stressor.
Generally, proactive people will overcome stressors and are able to cope with difficult and unexpected situations (Southwick, 2011). On the contrary, more reactive people will experience stress from stressors (triggering factors). Those who respond to trauma passively will suffer long-time effects and have poor internal coping actions. These observations suggest that whether or not a traumatic experience will have little or severe impact on an individual depends on their different coping abilities (Yehuda & McEwen, 2004). It is significant to realize the difference between the short-term and long-term trauma. Long-term trauma remains in the unconscious from past experiences such as childhood abuse. Trauma can be overcome through psychotherapy that involves revisiting the origin of the traumatic event (Southwick, 2011).
How Can We Help?
Research shows that accepting and understanding one’s psychological state is very significant and offers a good starting point towards recovery (Yehuda & McEwen, 2004). Misconceptions about trauma could derail the healing process that calls for the need to accept traumatized people, understand their feelings and offer them psychological support instead of viewing them as psychotic (Southwick, 2011). When individuals are in emotional pain and cannot comfort themselves, it is important to offer them support from friends, support groups and relatives. It is crucial to talk to traumatized people and support them in their recovery.
Victims of trauma need to understand that they are not sick or delusional; that the experiences are only temporary. It is important for assessors to understand what the traumatized person is experiencing is real and valid. Where appropriate, the assessor proceeds by gaining insight into the traumatic event and the outcomes such as dissociation, posttraumatic symptoms, substance abuse, psychotic reactions and somatic symptoms (Southwick, 2011). Such enquiries should be conducted in a sensitive, empathetic and supportive manner.