When you experience a highly distressing event you may have some very strong emotions.
Sometimes your emotions do not go away. They may even get stronger over time. This can feel overwhelming and you may fear that you might never recover.
This is called a trauma response, and it can be excruciating. You may feel as if you can no longer function in your every day life. You might experience reactions like nightmares, flashbacks, anxiety, insomnia, mood swings and overwhelming fear. These emotional responses are a normal reaction to an abnormal event that you experience as traumatic.
Trauma may also impact your parenting. It does not make you a bad parent or a bad person if you have experienced trauma and are doing the best you can as a parent or carer. Trauma can be difficult to cope with and it is important that you acknowledge those difficulties and your strength in persevering.
Your trauma experience may affect your parenting in multiple ways. This may mean you could experience more challenges in the relationship with your child.
You might become overbearing and try to keep your child from situations that remind you of your trauma as well as any situation you believe may cause them to experience trauma. This could lead to behavioural and mental health problems for your child.
Conversely, you might struggle to understand or even see your child’s signals for attention and help. This might lead you to reduce the time that you spend with your child or impact your relationship with your child.
These reactions and responses are normal and can be managed when you understand your trauma triggers and how to reduce them.
Babies are affected by a parent’s trauma too.
As a parent who has been impacted by trauma you might find it more difficult to meet or recognise the needs of your baby. For example you may unconsciously withdraw from your baby, because you are reliving your own trauma.
Infancy is an essential time for development. Babies who have experienced trauma or high distress may miss milestones, including in their brain development, or they may lose some of their milestone abilities. In particular, they can lose their ability to self-soothe and may stop expressing emotions on their face.
Children who have experienced trauma may be affected in a range of ways.
Your child may experience language and learning difficulties, for example with planning and problem solving.
They may also struggle to understand social cues and situations in the world around them, as well as struggling to understand themselves and their emotions.
Their brain development may also be affected as trauma can slow brain growth or make negative connections to both every day or even otherwise positive events.
Their stress responses may also be affected causing them to experience higher levels of stress in everyday situations. This can lead to high anxiety and the constant reliving of their trauma. Some children try to cope with this by retreating into themselves or disassociating in stressful situations. Other children may become overactive and display challenging behaviours and emotions. Some children can behave older than their age, taking on the worries and responsibilities of adults around them.
Teenagers who have experienced trauma, and especially those with unresolved trauma, may experience effects as a teenager and into adulthood.
Long term problems due to trauma may arise in an adult that were not obvious as a teen or child, or difficulties in adolescence may carry over into adulthood. For example, your teenager who has experienced trauma may have reduced independence, leading them to struggle with the responsibilities of adulthood.
Your teenager may also display behavioural problems, for example rebelling or risk taking.
They may also act in ways inconsistent with their age. Some even regress to childish behaviour or act older than they are, particularly in relationships.
Your teen who has suffered trauma may also experience mental health problems such as anxiety and depression. These can lead to irregular sleep patterns, disordered eating and withdrawal from friends, family, and activities they previously enjoyed.
Trauma can also affect brain development. Adolescence is a time of change. Neural pathways are being removed from lack of use or strengthened through constant use and trauma can reinforce negative pathways.
Generational trauma is when you had a deep connection with a family member who had unresolved trauma and that trauma carries over to you. If that trauma is also unresolved for you, it can carry over to your children. This can become a cycle until someone addresses the unresolved trauma.
Trauma services can assist you and your family to move on in your life. They do this by helping you to properly process your emotions and thoughts around your experiences. Trauma therapy may also assist you to reduce your feelings of being overwhelmed so you feel more able to cope with what has happened to you. Trauma counselling can support you to understand the triggers to your trauma and ways to manage your responses so they are less overwhelming and more manageable in daily life.
Trauma services can also help you to reconnect with your children and help your family members reconnect with you.
While you may never forget trauma experiences, trauma counselling supports you to manage the impact of trauma , whilst also supporting you to adjust to normal life and relationships.
Trauma experiences can feel overwhelming and leave you wondering whether you will ever recover, but with good support you can heal and learn new ways of managing trauma symptoms.
You can find more about Windermere's range of services and how you can access them here.
In an emergency call 000.