Trauma is a psychological or emotional response to an event that was very distressing and/or disturbing. Such experiences have the ability to alter one's feelings of safety, often resulting in symptoms such as anxiety, exhaustion, concussion, depression, and disturbing memories. These symptoms can continue long after the traumatic event has taken place.
“26% of children in the U.S. will witness or experience a traumatic event before the age of four" (ND.Gov).
“Experiencing traumatic events is not rare. About 6 of every 10 men (60%) and 5 of every 10 women (50%) experience at least one traumatic event throughout their lifetime” (PTSD.VA.GOV)
- Denial and/or disbelief
- Difficulty concentrating
- Muscle tension
- Anxiety and/or fear
- Intense sadness
- Withdrawal from friends and family
- Involved in toxic relationships
- Fear of change
- Easily startled
- Mood swings and/or disorder(s)
- Personality disorder(s)
- Sleep disorder(s)
- Eating disorder(s)
- Body dysmorphia
- Difficulty with self-identity
- Hypersexuality or hyposexuality
- Hoarding and overspending tendencies
- PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)
Distressing childhood events, such as abuse, unnecessarily high expectations, lack of emotional support, etc.
Sexual assault or harassment
Accidents and/or injuries
Unhealthy or struggling relationships (breakups, divorce)
Intergenerational Trauma such as segregation, slavery, colonization, etc.
Exposure to unsafe environments
Consistent embarrassment, invalidation, or harassment, including bullying
Experience of war, terrorism, or prison
The fight response can happen when one feels that they are in danger, but believes they can overpower the threat. The brain sends messages to the rest of the body, quickly preparing it for possible physical demands. you for the physical demands of fighting.
Possible signs of being in the fight response:
- Tightened jaw
- Teeth grinding
- Upset stomach
- Intense anger
- Uncontrollable crying
- The desire to bring physical harm to someone or something
The flight response occurs when one believes they can avoid the danger by running from it.
Possible signs of being in the flight response:
- Numbness in extremities
- Tense muscles
- Excessive exercise
- The feeling of being trapped
The freeze response takes place when one feels like neither running nor fighting is the best choice, resulting in the individual to physically or mentally come to a standstill or, quite literally, freeze.
Possible signs that you are experiencing the freeze response:
- Feeling "stiff" or "heavy"
- Intense feelings of dread
- Increase in heart rate
- Tolerating stressors
The fawn response happens when an individual has tried fighting, fleeing, and freezing without success.
The fawn response may be prompted by abusive environments, childhood trauma, or narcissistic parents. The fawn response commonly appears as compliance and helpfulness, aka people pleasing. This often results in an individual putting others before themselves.
TRAUMA INFORMED CARE
A system or institution that is trauma informed strives to:
- Acknowledge the widespread impact of trauma and understand potential paths for recovery
- Recognizes the signs and symptoms of trauma in clients, families, staff, and others involved with the system
- Responds by fully integrating knowledge about trauma into policies, procedures, and practices
- Seeks to actively resist re-traumatization.
The six principles of trauma informed approaches include:
- Insuring feelings of safety
- Trust and transparency
- Peer support
- Collaboration and mutuality
- Empowerment of voice and personal choices
- Cultural, Historical, and Gender Issues
TRAUMA INFORMED ENVIRONMENTS
Trauma informed spaces can be created through the following:
- Reduce stimuli, such as overwhelming sounds and harsh lighting (only utilize ambient sound when all people consent and are comfortable)
- Increase natural lights
- Limit complexities, such as distracting patterns or decor
- Reduce all fragrance in the room
- Promote individualism and support
- Encourage peer support
- Ensure that there is a healthy balance between privacy and community
- Avoid bright and vibrant colors, stick to cooler tones
- Keep spaces open and clean
- Minimize overcrowding furniture or decor
- Provide places for storage that are private and secure
- Maintain easy navigation and accessibility
Increasing accessibility may look like:
- Including content warnings before lessons or presentations
- Open communication about what individuals are comfortable with
- Trained staff who are able to properly respond to a mental health crises and an individuals' needs
- Trained staff who are able to greet and serve individuals who speak little or no English.
- Trained staff who have other communication needs, such as hearing impairment and limited literacy
- Allowing individuals to leave a space if they are experiencing anxiety
Trauma can have a significant impact on you, so much so that it affects you for the rest of your life. However, it is important to separate yourself from the trauma you have experienced. It does not define you, though it may alter the way in which you respond and react to things; and that’s perfectly ok! There is no “wrong” or “right” way to react to a traumatic event. Any emotion you experience throughout or after enduring trauma is perfectly valid.
Project Calendula is intended to be a prelude to your mental health journey by guiding you through basic education and advocacy. We are not a mental health service.
If you or someone you know are in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (U.S.): 800-273-8255.
If you or someone you know are struggling, please visit the resources at the bottom of this section to find a mental health professional near you.
Please visit the following websites and Instagram accounts for further information on mental health education.
Instagram accounts to check out: