Is it Ever NOT Trauma?


Table of Contents

The more we understand the effects of trauma on the body, the more clear it becomes that a variety of mental health and medical diagnoses can be explained as secondary manifestations of trauma. Here are just a few of the complications that arise from untreated and unprocessed trauma. This list is not exhaustive, and ongoing research indicates that these more common symptoms from trauma may extend beyond what is currently known about mental health.

● Hyperarousal
● Sleep disturbances
● Overactive startle response
● Muscle tension
● Cognitive errors, including misinterpretation of information
● Unprovoked or persistent guild
● Intrusive thoughts
● Panic, including palpitations, difficulty breathing, dizziness, tunnel vision, sweating,
abdominal discomfort, diarrhea, and nausea
● Impaired concentration
● Dissociation, depersonalization, and derealization
● Anger, outbursts, and self-destructive behavior

Often, trauma does not occur alone. Many people who experience trauma also suffer from major
depressive disorder, substance abuse, and insomnia. So what is trauma? At Joy Spring Mental Health center, we consider trauma to be anything that you have experienced that was unwanted, too much, too fast, too little, unexpected, and potentially, or actually, hurtful to yourself or your loved ones.

Trauma can include big life events such as motor vehicle accidents, the death of a loved one, or life-threatening illnesses or injuries. Trauma can also be chronic and ongoing, such as systemic racism, poverty, and harassment. What is traumatic to one person, may not be traumatic to another because is less about what happens to you and much more about what happens within you.


Trauma is NOT a competitive sport, something you have to justify, or something that you have to prove to be taken seriously and believed. I know you know this. But do you feel it’s truth? Here’s how to tell. When you hear or read the word “trauma,” what shows up in your body? Do you notice any thoughts or feelings when you see or hear this word? For a lot of us, the word “trauma” itself can be activating.

Perhaps your experiences have been ignored, invalidated, or disbelieved. You may have received cultural or familial messages that promote secrecy, masking, or being “tough.” These stigmas keep a lot of people from asking for or receiving the support they need to recover and take care of their mental health. When you think about it, not having your experiences believed or having access to the mental health support you need is a trauma in itself.

If you are someone who has a strong physical, emotional, or cognitive reaction to the word “”trauma,”it may be helpful to get curious about this. One way to build flexibility and find a path forward to getting the mental health support you need may look like experimenting with changing the word “trauma” for an alternative that feels less activating. Can you allow yourself to seek mental health support for your challenging, difficult, hard, uncomfortable, or hurtful experiences or relationships?

One of the things that is stressed at Joy Spring Mental Health is that having mental health symptoms can be traumatic. Unfortunately, for many clients, this is compounded by our medical system because they have had previous experiences with seeking mental health services where they did not have a positive experience. Traditional offices tend to offer rushed appointments that do not allow adequate time for asking questions, exploring options, and expressing and resolving the challenges of mental healthcare, including side effects, costs, or insurance difficulties.

At Joy Spring Mental Health, we do things differently because we are doing the work of healing healthcare-related trauma and because we appreciate the inherent trauma of mental distress and mental illness, even for people who do not identify as having a history of traumatic events. We also understand that untreated mental illness can increase the risk of traumas occurring.

When it comes to the ways that mental illness can be associated with trauma, the list goes on and on. In Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), patients are often exhausted by the time they are spending on their obsessions and compulsions, as well as the efforts they are making to mask their symptoms so that the people around them don’t judge or ridicule them or think they are “crazy.” This makes it very difficult to form and maintain genuine relationships.

In Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, patients often receive ongoing messages from a very early age that they are “too much,” “too loud,” “too busy,” unorganized, lazy, forgetful, or thoughtless. In depression, patients often experience fatigue, a lack of motivation, and cognitive fog. This can lead to poor performance at work, absenteeism, and job loss. In panic disorder, patients can become so fearful of the threat of having a panic attack that they become unable to leave their homes. During a manic episode of bipolar disorder, patients lose insight and impulse
control and may very quickly make decisions with life-altering consequences, such as having an affair, overspending to the point of major debt, getting in fights, or using drugs or alcohol in unsafe ways. All of these symptoms and mental illness consequences can be traumatic.

What does it look like to work with a mental health provider who is trauma-informed? At Joy Spring Mental Health, this means that you have longer appointments where you have time to ask questions, share what is important to you, and space to work at a pace that is tolerable to you. A common myth of mental healthcare is that is it is a “no pain, no gain” situation.

Many clients think that to receive mental healthcare, they have to talk about things that they are not ready to talk about, have to hide parts that they are afraid of to avoid punishment or loss of control or think that they will have to take medications or have therapy when they may not be interested in including those options in their plan of care. In short, for many patients, seeking mental health care feels very vulnerable. At Joy Spring Mental Health, part of how we apply an understanding of trauma-based care is by making sure that you feel safe, heard, and in control. Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (US). Trauma-Informed Care in Behavioral Health Services. Rockville (MD): Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (US);

  1. (Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 57.) Chapter 3, Understanding the
    Impact of Trauma. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK207191/
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