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Symptoms of Emotional Trauma

Man looking problematic sitting on corner with one hand on his head

Everyone experiences trauma in their lives. Whether it’s the death of a pet, a car wreck, or the loss of a job, traumatic happenings impact people’s lives. 

Some people cope with these events and move forward, while others experience ongoing symptoms of emotional trauma. If you have emotional trauma symptoms, it’s vital to seek professional assistance in dealing with the trauma before it negatively impacts your life further.

Begin Again Institute helps men who experience intimacy disorders, including sex or pornography addiction, resulting from unresolved trauma. Even if you don’t recognize a traumatic happening that resulted in these concerns, we’re here to help.

What is Emotional Trauma?

Emotional trauma is the lasting emotional response to experiencing a traumatic event or a series of traumatic events. A traumatic event is a death or near-death experience or a happening that makes you feel emotionally or physically unsafe.

These events can occur at any time in your life, creating fear and distrust and leaving you poised to fight or flee a situation at any moment. As a result, they can impact every part of your life.

Traumatic experiences may include:

  • Serious injury to yourself or someone else
  • Job, home, community, or other major loss
  • Physical or verbal abuse or neglect
  • Sexual assault or rape
  • Loss of a loved one and grief
  • Car wrecks or other accidents
  • Serious or chronic illness 
  • Racism or other discrimination
  • Bullying
  • Natural disasters
  • Witnessing a crime or death
  • Home or food insecurity

Key Symptoms of Emotional Trauma

Everyone is exposed to various traumas in their lives, but their responses aren’t uniform, even when they experience the same traumatic event. People process trauma differently, and trauma symptoms differ. In general, trauma symptoms are psychological, physical, and behavioral. 

Psychological Symptoms

Trauma alters the way your mind works, which leads to various psychological symptoms. People who experience these symptoms for less than three months are thought to have an adjustment disorder and are able to self-regulate. Symptoms that last three months or longer likely indicate a more significant level of trauma.

Psychological symptoms of trauma may include:

  • Dissociating or feeling disconnected from your body or numb
  • Extreme anger
  • Anxiety
  • Depression or loss of joy
  • Fear and concerns for safety, even when they aren’t warranted
  • Confusion or difficulty concentrating
  • Hypervigilance, or being on edge or adopting excessive behaviors
  • Feeling overwhelmed or agitated
  • Guilt, shame, or self-blame for what happened to you
  • Having flashbacks of the traumatic happening or feeling like you’re reliving it
  • Disinterest in things you used to enjoy
  • Self-harming behaviors or suicidal ideation

Physical Symptoms

Anything that happens in your mind also impacts your body. Some people are surprised by the physical symptoms of trauma, but this mind/body connection means it manifests there, too.

Physical symptoms of trauma may include:

  • Changes in sleep patterns, either sleeping too much, experiencing insomnia, or being unable to sleep because of frequent nightmares
  • Being easily startled
  • Head and body aches
  • Changes in appetite
  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Not feeling physically well without an apparent medical reason

Behavioral Symptoms

Trauma is physically and emotionally uncomfortable, leading people to try to cope with trauma symptoms as best they can. Often, these self-coping methods are adverse behaviors and include things people wouldn’t do under normal circumstances.

Behavioral symptoms of trauma may include:

  • Angry outbursts
  • Isolation
  • Drug or excessive alcohol use
  • Risky or reckless behavior

Emotional Trauma in the Context of Sex and Pornography Addiction

Intimacy disorders, including sex addiction or pornography addiction, can form as a result of attempting to cope with emotional trauma. There is a clear link between these disorders and trauma that’s rooted in dopamine.

Dopamine is the brain’s natural feel-good chemical. It helps you release the fear or need to fight or flight that trauma creates. Sex, masturbation, and pornography viewing cause your brain to release dopamine. Soon, you begin to associate these activities with feeling emotionally better and use them to deal with daily stressors.

Over time, sexual release becomes your response to stressors, and a neural pathway forms between stress, trauma, and sexual activity. In other words, sexual release becomes a way for you to self-medicate.

Unfortunately, your brain adjusts to the amount of dopamine these activities release and starts to want more. So, you start seeking out these releases more frequently and under more extreme circumstances.

By the time you realize that these behaviors are negatively impacting your life, an addiction is already formed, and you can’t stop, even if you try. At that point, you likely need professional help to heal the trauma and stop the behavior that’s harming you.

What to Do If You’re Experiencing Emotional Trauma Symptoms

Whether you’re dealing with an intimacy disorder or not, you should take action if you think you’re experiencing symptoms of emotional trauma. Trauma will not heal itself. In fact, symptoms are likely to worsen if left untreated.

If you’re experiencing emotional trauma symptoms: 

  • Seek Professional Help. Seek help from a mental health professional who can assist you in identifying the trauma you experienced, understanding your responses to it, and healing from that experience. You can’t undo the trauma you experienced, but you can learn how to cope effectively with it and alleviate symptoms.
  • Practice Self-Care. Basic self-care, like making sure you’re getting proper rest and nutrition, can give you the strength you need to deal with trauma. Be sure you’re taking care of your body and mind as best you can to create an environment for healing.
  • Use Stress Reduction Techniques. Your body and mind are in a state of increased stress, so you want to reduce additional stressors as much as possible. To do this, consider journaling, meditating, listening to music, engaging in a hobby, or just taking a walk. Any healthy activity that helps you feel calm is worth considering.
  • Give Yourself Time. Working through trauma isn’t going to happen overnight. It will take time to work through the issue. Show yourself grace while giving yourself time to heal.
  • Surround Yourself. Community is essential in dealing with mental health concerns. Surround yourself with understanding, reliable loved ones who can support you during your healing journey.
  • Don’t Give Up. You deserve a life where trauma is in the background, not the focus. Don’t give up on your healing. It won’t always be easy, but it will lead to a more fulfilling life.

Treatment Approaches at Begin Again Institute

Begin Again Institute offers highly specialized, trauma-informed care for men with intimacy disorders, including sex, pornography, and masturbation addictions. We understand the relationship between trauma and addiction, and we use that knowledge throughout treatment.

We employ Certified Sex Addiction Therapists (CSATs) who have special training to work with people with sex addiction. They have expert knowledge of how to recognize and heal underlying trauma.

Our CSATs use the Trauma-Induced Sexual Addiction (TINSA®) model for sex addiction treatment. TINSA helps clients understand the way their mind and body respond to trauma. We combine the approach with various treatment modalities to offer the individual help you need.

In our 14-Day Men’s Intensive or our Boulder Recovery 14-Day Christian Men’s Intensive, we have the help you need to heal from trauma and stop harmful behaviors.

Taking the First Step Toward Healing

Emotional trauma symptoms can impact every aspect of your life. Attempting to deal with this trauma alone can result in various negative outcomes, including the development of sex, masturbation, or pornography addictions. 

Begin Again Institute understands the connection between trauma and intimacy disorders. We want to help you heal from the root cause of these issues that are negatively impacting your life.

Contact us today to learn more about treatment at Begin Again Institute.

  • Category: Mental Health
  • By Begin Again Institute
  • March 25, 2024

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