If You Struggle To Feel Safe And Connected, Unprocessed Trauma May Be The Source Of Your Distress…
When something bad happens to us, we’re likely to store certain aspects of the experience away, burying the discomfort, shame, and pain associated with the memory. But just because these feelings have been buried, it does not mean they have vanished entirely. Rather, they sit inside that dark part of ourselves—what our clinicians think of as a leaky wooden box—where the bad feelings accumulate and eventually begin to impact every aspect of life.
Unprocessed trauma has a way of making life very uncomfortable. Whether you have trouble focusing, staying calm, or connecting with others, you’ve probably noticed that you are often exhausted and not fully functional. Insomnia or unexplained physical symptoms might keep you from relaxing, made worse by the fact that you’re often hypervigilant and on edge.
Living with co-occurring symptoms of anxiety, depression, and other challenges to your mental health, it’s understandable that you’d rather avoid emotional pain than face it head-on. Therefore, you may engage in substance abuse and other numbing behaviors, including mindless internet scrolling and binging television. Regularly feeling like you have to put on a face for the outside world, you may have developed the belief that no one understands or can relate to your experience.
Yet, you are not alone in your trauma—therapy can help.
Trauma, PTSD, And The Difference Between Them
Trauma is at the core of many widespread mental health challenges, including depression, anxiety, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). However, not every person who experiences trauma develops symptoms. Trauma is a highly individual experience for each person, and two people who had similar traumatic experiences might have very different reactions to the event.
While PTSD is common among individuals who have survived a scary or life-threatening event, not everyone who experiences trauma gets PTSD. According to the DSM, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder has specific diagnostic criteria, including nightmares, flashbacks, and avoidance of certain triggers. And though there are differences between trauma and PTSD, therapeutic treatment is available for both.
Counseling gives you an opportunity to identify your trauma and the impact it has had on you so that you can begin to heal and feel more functional again.
Trauma Is About The Experience—Not The Event Itself
In our culture, trauma has typically been characterized as a big, catastrophic event, like a war or an accident. In reality, trauma is much more common and insidious than people think. Anything from childhood separation and/or abuse to a bad breakup to an invasive medical procedure can be traumatic. And every single one of us will experience some form of trauma in our lives.
The definition of trauma is simple: any situation that causes our well-being to feel threatened—be it our physical, emotional, sexual, or mental well-being—has the potential to traumatize us. Regardless of its source, trauma maintains four elements:
It was unexpected.
We were unprepared for it.
There was nothing we could do to prevent it from happening.
And it overwhelmed our ability to cope in the moment.
When we perceive danger, we go into fight-or-flight mode, which allows us to feel protected during a vulnerable situation. Without knowing it, we may carry some of these protective mechanisms from the time of the trauma into other areas of our lives. Living on high alert like this compromises our nervous system and makes us susceptible to a range of mental health conditions, emotional distress, and chronic discomfort.
If we sustained multiple, cumulative traumas—as is often the case in instances of childhood abuse and neglect and verbally/emotionally abusive parents—we are put at even further risk of developing Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD). C-PTSD tends to be more complicated than simple PTSD and can produce a confusing array of symptoms that may not even appear to be related to trauma at first glance.
We Don’t Have The Resources Or Vocabulary We Need To Openly Discuss Trauma
Because trauma is so widespread and relatively normalized, our society inadvertently minimizes lingering effects. Oftentimes, we convince ourselves that others have it worse than we do, or that what happened wasn’t that bad. We may also minimize our experience by treating mental health symptoms rather than the root cause of our trauma.
Furthermore, in our culture, we have to contend with a bootstrap mentality that trauma essentially boils down to “Don’t look at it, don’t acknowledge it, and you’ll be fine.” That’s precisely when we reach for the box where we can hide away and stifle our emotions.
At Bay Area Mental Health, we support you as you slowly and gently open up that box. By exploring your experience and freeing yourself from the pattern of shame and discomfort that your trauma has trapped you in, you can find true healing in therapy.
Trauma Therapy At Bay Area Mental Health
Our practice was founded primarily out of the desire to help clients overcome traumatic experiences. Using a combination of “top-down” and “bottom-up” therapeutic approaches that target stored trauma—rather than surface-level symptoms—we can guide you in getting to the root of your distress. However, therapy is not spent mining for pain or discussing every detail of your trauma. Instead, we will work at your pace to identify your daily struggles and pain points, methodically tracing them back to their source. Sometimes the slower you go, the faster you get there!
Safe, body-based approaches like somatic psychotherapy can help identify your feelings and re-establish a mind-body connection. Whereas behavioral methods like Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) are especially useful for coping skills and emotion regulation. As you develop the psychological resources you need to confront your pain, you’ll gain the awareness to process your trauma on a deep level. We also offer trauma-informed Ketamine Assisted Psychotherapy (KAP) treatment to those who qualify.
And if you’re in need of the healing support of a community, we offer group therapy for trauma survivors with a specific emphasis on survivors of sexual assault and childhood sexual abuse. To learn more, visit our Group Therapy Openings page.
Together with your therapist and community of fellow trauma survivors, you can feel a sense of possibility and repair. Though you can’t change the past, you can change your relationship with it. Counseling allows you to leave behind the pain of your trauma so that you can find happiness and fulfillment right now.
Maybe You Struggle With Unprocessed Trauma, But You Aren’t Sure If Therapy Is What You Need…
What happened to me wasn’t that bad or traumatic.
Trauma is all about how you experienced an event—not the story of what happened. When you stifle or discount the experience, your trauma gets stored in the body and manifests in an array of physical and mental health setbacks.
If you struggle with symptoms that have no identifiable cause, a traumatic event may be at the root of your discomfort. But we are here to help. In therapy, we can validate your experience and help you understand the lingering effect that trauma has had in your life so that you can heal.
I am afraid to open up about my trauma in counseling.
We completely understand that you may not feel comfortable discussing your experience with a stranger, which is why we will move at your pace and honor your wishes for trauma treatment.
Instead of diving right into the painful experience right away, we’ll make sure you are armed with coping and stress management techniques that will help you feel safe. As you begin to peel back the experience of your trauma with a therapist, you will have the support of our clinicians to guide you toward healing and clarity.
Therapy takes too much time and costs too much money.
If unprocessed trauma compromises your quality of life, it’s important to seek treatment. Therapy is an investment in yourself and your future, that helps you create the existence you want. By making that investment, you free up your time and resources in the long-term to enjoy life instead of being caught in the cycle of trauma.
You Can Let Go Of The Past To Live The Life You Want
It’s possible to heal the trauma at the core of your sadness and distress. At Bay Area Mental Health, we specialize in trauma-informed counseling and therapeutic approaches that offer lasting relief.
To schedule an appointment or a free, 15-minute consultation with one of our trauma therapists, we invite you to visit our contact page.