Anxiety and Trauma: PTSD

Facing trauma is hard. It is a difficult battle that often times seems unfairly won by the opposing side. We do our best to ignorepush down, and forget the trauma, but it just doesn’t seem to go away. The event of the trauma seems to stay with us. And while this is true, sometimes the experience of the trauma produces unwanted things such as anxiety. When we’re faced with trauma memories and anxiety, life can become quite overwhelming.

What is trauma?

Trauma is an emotional response to an event that very scary, dangerous, or violent. This could be an accidentnatural disaster, or violent act you witness to someone or to yourself. Being a part of a traumatic event can have a significant effect on an individual.

You may experience such things as flashbacks – where a disturbing memory suddenly comes back and interrupts what you’re presently doing, nightmares that keep you from falling asleep at night or staying asleep or getting back to sleep after you have woken up. It can also include crying or fear when seeing something that reminds you of the trauma.

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is an overwhelming sense of uneasiness or apprehension that is often followed with compulsive behavior or panic attacks. Anxiety can happen when we come in contact with a trigger (an eventplace, or situation that reminds us of a traumatic event) or it can happen, what feels like, out of nowhere. Anxiety can be your heart racing or thumping inside you, your palms sweaty, and a heaviness on your chest or difficulty breathing.

When anxiety hits, you can quickly feel like you are out of control and unable to regain any sense of normalcy. Anxiety is typically thought of as foe, though a little can be helpful just before a big performance or event. Anxiety, when out of control, can create such panic within an individual.

What happens when trauma and anxiety collide?

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, is not just applicable to war veterans. When an individual faces an event that involves actual or threatened death or serious injury to self or others, PTSD can happen. If flashbacks are present, reoccurring dreams, acting or feeling like the traumatic event was reoccurring, anxiety rises, or you’re reacting to a person, place, or thing that reminds you of the trauma, you may be dealing with PTSD.

When dealing with PTSD you work hard to avoid thoughts, feelings, activities, places, or people that remind you of the traumatic event. There is a great deal of hopelessness as well as having difficulty connecting with other people. One’s desire to participate in usual activities decreases or disappears altogether.

What are possible life events that could trigger PTSD?

  • War
  • Rape/Incest
  • Car Accident
  • Fire
  • Physical Abuse
  • Robbery
  • Assault
  • Natural Disaster
  • Terrorism
  • Torture

Now what?

Trauma, Anxiety, and PTSD can produce a host of unwanted symptoms.

  1. Talking with a therapist can be extremely helpful in sorting out the traumatic experience and understanding the anxiety within.
  2. Routine exercise can be helpful in bringing down high levels of cortisol, which produce the anxious feelings.
  3. Journaling can be helpful in sorting out your thoughts and organizing them so they don’t seem so overwhelming.
  4. Taking deep, belly breaths can help you get adequate oxygen into your system – when we are dealing with anxiety, we tend to take short, shallow breaths which make things worse.


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