Is It A Trauma Response?

Clients who have Posttraumatic Stress Disorder symptoms sometimes have difficulty figuring out whether a current feeling or reaction is a trauma response. How can you tell if you are having a trauma response or just having a typical feeling or reaction to your present day life?

Here are some indications that you are having a trauma response and not just a typical feeling:

  • It is automatic and you feel out of control. It happened suddenly without your being aware of anything being wrong.
  • It is much more intense than is warranted. You are aware you are overreacting but the feelings seem big anyhow.
  • You feel “crazy” or like you are “losing it.” Because your current feelings don’t make sense in your present day situation, you start to feel crazy and like something is wrong with you.
  • You feel ashamed, dirty, or disgusted with yourself. Especially for survivors of sexual abuse, shame is very common during a trauma response. Because of the shame, you might want to hide what is happening; you might not want anyone to know.

If you notice any of these signs, you might consider the possibility you are having a trauma response. Try saying to yourself, “Maybe this is a trauma response.” See if that seems true in the moment. Try to ground yourself. Later, consider whether you were triggered by anything in particular. Often, a therapist can help you to figure out how trauma is affecting your feelings and how you can cope with it in the moment.

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