Trauma and Anxiety
Trauma and Anxiety: Anxiety is a natural, common response to trauma.
Survivors of trauma can sometimes suffer panic attacks, excessive worrying, and chronic anxiety ruminating about future disappointment, future abandonment, future loss, or future danger. Many childhood survivors of trauma continue to experience other traumas throughout their development into adulthood that trigger more and more symptoms of anxiety, to which the anxiety can feel like it has become molded into part of their personality, the only way of coping and survival in a world that has proven itself to be threatening and unsafe.
As a consequence of terrorist attacks, mass murders, and the perpetuation of violence around the world, we naturally feel fear and anxiety as a result, even when we are not directly involved. Intense feelings of fear and anxiety, a deep sense of helplessness, vulnerability, along with feelings of grief, sadness, shame, or anger are all very natural responses for those who have faced a life threatening situation (having been in war/combat, witnessing the unexpected death of another or having your life threatened), or deep sense of relationship betrayal (childhood sexual abuse, parental rejection and abandonment, growing up with exposure to drugs and addiction, rape/sexual trauma, etc). The range of emotions such as fear, anxiety, depression, shame, numbness, or dissociation are all natural responses to trauma.
Trauma survivors who have post-traumatic stress may sometimes have trouble connecting in interpersonal relationships. Post-traumatic stress can cause problems with trust, communication, closeness/intimacy, and/or healthy conflict resolution, which can affect a survivor’s worldview and the way in which they respond to others. Moreover, the way a loved one responds to a survivor can have huge affects that can either be supportive or destructive. Loved ones who respond with little support (such as being dismissive/rejecting of survivor’s feelings or experience) can reinforce a person’s trauma and further encourage a survivor to deny their feelings, cause more shame, anxiety, or depression, and ultimately cause survivors to reject their experiences and themselves.
Many people who have anxiety can find it difficult to recognize or accept their fears and anxiety. As people blame themselves for their anxiety, they also blame themselves for feeling very valid fears and anxiety. Have you ever thought to yourself: “I shouldn’t feel like this, or I just need to get over it, or why I am so weak?”
People will want to continuously fight against natural responses to trauma and deep-rooted feelings, self medicate themselves through numbing with countless addictions/obsessive compulsive behaviors/self-mutilating behaviors to sweep their feelings under the rug and shut down. However, trauma can continue to consciously/unconsciously brew in our bodies like the magma of a volcano waiting for friction and pressure to facilitate an eruption. Ignoring your anxiety, anger, or sadness can lead to more feelings of anxiety, rage, and depression because we are denying the very emotions needed to help us process the experience and our relationship to it. Denying your anxiety can ironically create more anxiety because you’re rejecting your natural emotional responses to painful events. Part of recovering from trauma and anxiety is learning to identify what is imminent danger vs. an expectation of more trauma/danger due to unaddressed feelings/fears from your painful experience. This recovery process also means allowing yourself to feel your feelings instead of repressing them. Giving yourself the opportunity to feel your feelings can help facilitate the healing process, rather than keep you in vicious loops of anxiety that paralyze you and interfere with you fully living a peaceful life. Allowing yourself to feel your core emotions such as anxiety, anger, sadness, and/or fear means accepting yourself holistically while taking the necessary steps forward to process your experiences without becoming permanently captive to trauma.