Understanding your response to trauma (part 5 of 8)
How can this all be just “in my head?”
It’s not. Researchers have demonstrated that exposure to severe trauma often results in persistent alterations in bodily functions. For example, levels of several neurotransmitters in your brain may be affected by trauma, which can contribute to your symptoms. Trauma can render parts of the brain overactive or underactive, also contributing to your symptoms. Disruption of your sleep cycle after trauma may also contribute to your symptoms. Your baseline level of arousal, as measured by resting heart rate and blood pressure, may be persistently elevated after trauma.
How might my family be affected?
When something traumatic happens to one person in a family, often everyone is affected. Different people’s trauma reactions may vary considerably. It may seem that some are “over” or “under” reacting. Often this is because one person is in a period of being benumbed while another may be in a period of over-arousal. Family members often experience changes in their world view or a spiritual crisis of their own. They may also have intense feelings of guilt, anger, or sorrow about what has happened to you, which can sometimes make it difficult for them to be helpful to you.
Why am I so upset about the responses of others?
Unfortunately, the police, the justice system, reporters, medical personnel, the clergy, and others can respond to you in ways that compound your feelings. This is sometimes called “secondary trauma” or “secondary wounding.” Ignorant, patronizing, impatient or insensitive responses of others may leave you feeling ignored, blamed, or treated like a child. Even well-intentioned loved ones who care for you and are eager to see you recover may respond to you in ways that compound your feelings. Sometimes your upset about such reactions from others may seem worse than the trauma itself, or you may become very preoccupied by it. Remember that sometimes people may avoid you or even blame you because they don’t like to be reminded that bad things can happen unpredictably to good people. (cont….on page 6 of 8)