Dealing with PTSD, Anxiety & Depression after Trauma

By Z Cordero

Trauma is often a topic that is difficult to unpack and even define. It is typically defined as an emotional state that occurs after a disturbing event. Often, traumatic events are described as causing the survivor extreme distress due to a real or perceived chance of harm or death. However, there are many types of trauma. Trauma can be caused by events such as a natural disaster or abuse. Trauma can also happen due to the effects of racism or holding a marginalized identity, as racialized or insidious trauma. You may have also heard trauma divided into several categories in a Psychology class such as “little t” and “big T” traumas.

To speak even more broadly, a traumatic event is an event that occurs once, many times, or systematically that causes a significant amount of distress and pain which can and many times does interfere with a person’s daily life and inhibits their typical functioning.

Shock and denial are common after experiencing a traumatic event, but many times other symptoms develop. Anxiety, Depression, and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder can shortly after or even after some time has passed. Sometimes, when these symptoms occur it is hard to pinpoint the cause. It may take time and some effort to uncover that a traumatic event caused these feelings or behaviors or that a traumatic event even happened.

Anxiety & Depression

Anxiety and depression can occur during or after a traumatic event. Panic attacks and even nocturnal attacks where a person is woken up out of their sleep can feel debilitating. Depression episodes or feeling down, gloomy, or losing interest in hobbies or seeing loved ones can feel exhausting.

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

Trauma can affect our minds and bodies, often affecting how we interact with others and view ourselves. When these effects become long-term it can indicate that a person has developed Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

What the DSM says about PTSD

Depression and Anxiety often occur simultaneously in people with PTSD. After experiencing a traumatic event, people with PTSD can feel symptoms for weeks or months. PTSD symptoms include:

Relieving the stress: someone with PTSD may have flashbacks and recurrent memories of the event. Others can struggle with nightmares or intrusive thoughts.

Emotional distance: a person experiencing PTSD symptoms will often subconsciously or consciously try to avoid situations where they are reminded of the trauma

Negative mood or thoughts related to the trauma: Some people experience amnesia, and others can experience feeling downtrodden or gloomy. It is also not uncommon to experience a lack of interest in activities or hobbies that brought joy.

Heightened arousal or reactivity: someone may feel irritable, easily startled, or struggle with concentration. Additionally, people with PTSD may often deal with insomnia.

Conclusion

There is no solid one-size-fits-all approach to dealing with the social, emotional, and physical effects of trauma but there are many ways to heal, grow, and regain control of your life after dealing with traumatic events. You may find solace in community: family members, chosen family, friends, support groups can help. Therapy can also help. Whether it’s talking through traumatic events, recognizing and finding coping mechanisms to handle triggers, and/or gaining the vocabulary to describe what happened or how you’re feeling. A trauma-informed therapist will have the tools to understand trauma and its effects on individuals.