Trauma happens as an emotional response following an upsetting event. Without intervention, trauma can lead to developing long-term issues and PTSD. We explain more about trauma, finding support, and how hypnotherapy can help you.
What is trauma?
When you experience a particularly stressful, distressing, or frightening event, it can be traumatic. Trauma is essentially your emotional response to that event. In the short term, you may experience feelings of shock and denial. Over time, you may develop other reactions or symptoms due to trauma.
Trauma can be emotional or psychological. It can be caused by situations or events. The impact of some events may feel more or less traumatic depending on your own life experiences and past traumas. It isn’t a sign of weakness if you feel more impacted by events than someone else does. For many people, trauma is a common, normal reaction. We don’t all process events in the same way, and past life experiences may lead you to develop more or less helpful coping mechanisms that can help or hinder you.
Trauma can affect anyone, of any gender, age, or background. Without help, it can cause long-lasting harm and could develop into post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) if left unaddressed. You may notice the impact of traumatic events immediately, or it could take days, weeks, months, or even years for symptoms to surface. It’s never too early or too late to seek help and support.
What are the different types of trauma?
There are three main categories or types of trauma. Acute (caused by a single incident), chronic (the result of repeated, prolonged trauma such as abuse) and complex (when you are exposed to multiple different traumatic events).
Signs and symptoms of trauma
Common long-term reactions to trauma can include:
- experiencing unpredictable emotions
- relationships becoming strained
- trouble concentrating
- feelings of shock, denial, disbelief, or confusion
- mood swings, irritability, or anger
- ongoing feelings of anxiety, fear, guilt, shame, or self-blame
- feeling disconnected, numb, hopeless, or withdrawn
Common physical symptoms can also include:
- feeling nauseous
- difficulty sleeping, insomnia, nightmares, or fatigue
- feeling on edge
- unexplained aches, pains, or muscle tension
- racing heartbeat
- being easily startled
Typically, symptoms last for a few days up to a few months. Over time, these should gradually fade. However, symptoms do not always go away on their own. If you find these thoughts and feelings start to impact your day-to-day life, change how you behave, or have a negative effect, it could be time to seek help.
What causes trauma?
There are many different experiences and events that can lead to trauma. What we each find traumatic is highly personal and varies from person to person. Two people may have similar experiences, but their reactions and how affected they are can be different.
Trauma can include events which have caused you to feel:
- under threat
These events may be one-off or ongoing. Living in a traumatic atmosphere, seeing someone else be harmed or being directly harmed yourself can all cause trauma. Being affected by trauma experienced by your family, friends, or community can also affect you.
Trauma can also stem from adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), which could include physical, emotional, or sexual abuse or neglect.
Other common experiences which can lead to trauma can include bullying, community violence, disasters, domestic violence, abuse, medical trauma, terrorism, traumatic grief, rape, sexual abuse, and more.
Over time, trauma can cause mental health problems or make you more likely to develop them. Both PTSD and complex PTSD are known to develop as a direct result of trauma.
What is the difference between PTSD and trauma?
Generally, a traumatic event is time-based, meaning symptoms should not last more than a few days or weeks. PTSD is often a more long-term condition, which can leave you experiencing negative side effects such as flashbacks for months or years.
According to the NHS, around one in three people who experience a traumatic event will go on to develop PTSD. We still don't know why some people develop PTSD and others do not.
If you are worried that a traumatic event continues to impact your life, it’s important to seek help.
How to find help and support for trauma
If you think that you may be experiencing ongoing signs and symptoms of trauma, it’s important to speak with your GP. They can help you to find the correct diagnosis, highlight local treatment and support options, and help you find the right form of help that works for you. Self-referral may also be available in your area.
There is no single best type of therapy or treatment for trauma. Just as we each react differently to trauma, we all respond differently to types of treatment depending on our unique needs and experiences. You may even find that what helped you through past trauma is no longer as effective. Keeping an open mind and exploring different options can be a helpful part of the process.
Research has shown that the relationship you have with your therapist is particularly important, no matter which type of therapy you choose. Ensuring you feel safe and comfortable is essential.
Common treatment options for trauma can include:
- arts therapies
- body-focused therapies
- cognitive analytic therapy (CAT)
- eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR) - a technique often used alongside hypnosis
- schema therapy
- trauma-focused cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
- watchful waiting (monitoring your symptoms to see if they get better or worse)
Everyone reacts differently to treatment. If one type doesn't work for you, it's important to try other options.
How can hypnotherapy help with trauma?
Hypnotherapy can be a gentle, effective tool to help heal trauma. Often used alongside other forms of therapy such as CBT, DBT (dialectical behaviour therapy), or other talking-based therapies, working with a hypnotherapist can help you to explore past traumas and underlying issues that may have exacerbated your reaction to or experience with trauma. A trauma-informed hypnotherapist may also be able to help you identify unhealthy coping mechanisms you may have developed due to past traumas, that you may be unaware of.
By entering a trance-like state using hypnosis, your hypnotherapist will help you to feel relaxed while safely accessing your memories to help you better understand your emotions surrounding your trauma. Together, you can identify triggers, and change how you react to them and how you feel about traumatic events.
Does hypnotherapy work for trauma?
A meta-analysis of studies into the success of hypnotherapy for PTSD has suggested that hypnosis is effective in alleviating symptoms of PTSD. Another study suggested that hypnotherapy may be as successful if not more so in helping treat PTSD as other therapeutic approaches such as psychodynamic psychotherapy.
Specific types of hypnotherapy, such as inner child healing hypnosis, are thought to be helpful in dealing with certain kinds of trauma. Rapid Transformational Therapy (RTT), past life regression, and hypno-psychotherapy are all types of hypnotherapy that may be helpful in addressing trauma.