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Trauma’s Ripple Effects If Not Processed

By Dr. Karl Benzio MD

Page Overview

As we take a look at Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and the long term disruptions it causes, it becomes apparent that the best way to handle trauma is to address it when it occurs, rather than waiting for the aftershocks to happen. Early help in the form of counseling, therapy, and even just talking to someone who cares can help the individual understand their reaction to the trauma and how to move past it.

If not processed, trauma can cause ripple effects that become disruptive to the person’s emotional wellbeing and life. While the initial effects of trauma are shocking and disrupting, the long term effects are more damaging. This is because they last longer, sometimes for the rest of the person’s life, and become far-reaching, causing ripples in the individual’s personal life, career, finances, physical health, and spiritual wellbeing.

Distorted Thinking Causes Ripples

The way trauma starts working against a person is by distorting information in the person’s head. Depending on what kind of trauma the person experienced, they may begin to think thoughts such as: men are dangerous, I am dirty, life is dangerous, there is no hope for me, etc. These kinds of thoughts, or distorted self-narratives, begin creeping up in all areas of life. When the person faces a situation similar to the traumatic one they experienced, their mind continues replaying the distorted self-narrative, and pretty soon they begin to believe these thoughts. When they face stress and challenges of any kind, they feel ill-equipped to face them, and the result is mental illness, addiction, and other long term effects.

The ripples of distorted self-narrative affect our brain, mind, and spirit, leading to co-morbid disorders, such as depression, self-harm disorders, and addiction. All of these things can be minimized or even prevented if the right kind of help is given following a traumatic experience.

Depression, Addiction, and Other Disorders

Mental illness and behavioral disorders are often the result of untreated stress due to trauma. As the person continues to process the traumatic event and develop distorted thinking, they can quickly become depressed and anxious and can loathe themselves, looking for control and relief in harmful behaviors.

  • Major Depression, or the constant state of hopelessness and despair, causes difficulty with work, sleep, eating, and social life.
  • Bipolar Depression, or manic depression, consists of drastic shifts in mood, energy, and behavior, causing the person to fluctuate between extreme highs and very low lows.
  • Anxiety Disorders (Panic, OCD, Social Anxiety, Phobias) cause distress, interference with everyday functioning, and ongoing mental trauma.
  • Eating Disorders, such as Anorexia Nervosa, Binge Eating Disorder, and Bulimia Nervosa, are categorized by a disruption in eating habits and self image.
  • Self-Harm Disorders, such as cutting, burning, and hair pulling, are defined as intentional injury to one’s own body.
  • Addictions to drugs and alcohol are often a person’s attempt to self medicate, but end up causing even more disruptions. Addiction as a result of trauma will be discussed in greater detail on page 7. link here

Compassionate Care Minimizes the Ripples Caused by Trauma

The best way to prevent PTSD and related disorders is to avoid damaging experiences in the first place. Parents can help protect their children from abusive and dangerous situations at the hands of a caregiver, relative, or schoolmates. Many times, however, the trauma is not preventable, nor is it expected, and cannot be avoided. In cases where trauma is unavoidable, compassionate care is vital to minimize the immediate shock, hurt, and disruption a stressful experience can cause.

Treatment for PTSD will be explained in the next page, and usually consists of talk therapy, medication, emotional development, and spiritual renewal. Because the effects of trauma can be so debilitating to a person for the rest of their life, the importance of compassionate care should not be underestimated. Accurate processing of the traumatic event helps minimize the longer term ripples, and helps the person get back to a normal life.