Other Psychology

3 Simple Steps of Overcoming Psychological Trauma

August 22, 2021

Psychological Trauma is not uncommon or rare and we all experience a form of it sometime in our lives. It arises when we have experienced a traumatic event. An example of what is considered a traumatic event is the loss of a loved one. Others include war, abuse, the loss of a close friendship, witnessing another person experience a traumatic event et cetra.

Psychological Trauma is linked to several mental health disorders, and this association often adds a negative connotation to it. Psychological trauma is not a disorder in itself, although it could lead to the development of several disorders. An example of such a disorder is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This is where the overlap occurs. We automatically assume an individual experiencing trauma must be suffering from PTSD. That is not always the case. An article published on NCBI alludes that majority of individuals that suffer similar symptoms of PTSD after an event do not go on to develop the disorder. This distinction can be seen in the length of time the symptoms are suffered. For the first category, symptoms of PTSD are usually temporary and only last for a short period of time. Ever heard of Acute Stress Disorder (ASD)? ASD is the development of symptoms immediately after a traumatic event. The symptoms are similar to PTSD but last for less than a month. PTSD sufferers on the other hand experience symptoms that could last for years, sometimes a lifetime.

PTSD is a serious mental health disorder and should never be overlooked. An example of people commonly known to suffer from PTSD are war veterans. They often suffer from depression, nightmares, insomnia, and re-living of past traumatic events. Some develop suicidal tendencies and if left untreated could be fatal.

After trauma comes healing. Our ability to process a traumatic event healthily is what determines if a person that has experienced it would slip into the mental health category.

I have experienced psychological trauma, suffered symptoms of PTSD, and I am proud to say I was able to overcome it. Below are 3 simple steps that helped me on my journey.

1. Awareness

The first step to overcoming psychological trauma is having the awareness that you have experienced a traumatic event and are likely to develop symptoms of PTSD. You should be open to all possibilities and not shy away from them for fear of being stigmatized as a mental health patient. 

A few years ago I experienced a traumatic event that changed my life forever. Back when it happened it felt like my life had changed for the worse but in hindsight, I see that it changed for the better. I learned a lot about human behaviour and about myself. When it happened, I went through bouts of anger, sadness, depression, denial, etc. I was in denial for a while and refused to acknowledge that I was reacting to what I had experienced.

After a while of living in denial, I had to look in the mirror and admit to myself that I was traumatized. I then went on what I would like to call a ‘false healing journey’, at the end of which I managed to convince myself that I had recovered and healed from the trauma. This led to me living my life through a false lens.

Notice that although I was now aware of my trauma I was still in some form of denial. I believe it was because I wasn’t ready to put a searchlight on what I had experienced. In this case, unlike PTSD sufferers that relieve their experience, I didn’t think of it at all.

One day I had a sudden realization that if I was avoiding thinking of the experience then I must not be as healed as I thought I was. I had cried and mourned, but I subconsciously buried parts of my wounds and by doing so I did not fully open myself up to healing those hidden wounds.

I cannot stress enough how important it is to search yourself for any hidden wounds, be it from childhood trauma or any other trauma. This is all part of the awareness process. You must be prepared to set time aside to reflect on all your past experiences and determine if there are any you avoid thinking of. This is a good indicator that it was a traumatic experience for you. Recognizing and accepting that an event was traumatic is a step closer to healing from it.

2. Healing & Reprograming

The process of overcoming trauma does not stop at being aware of it. As sufferers of trauma would admit, the most important step of the process is healing. Staying unhealed programs us to react to certain triggers associated with the trauma. An example will be a person that witnessed a car crash. A trigger for him could be seeing the model of the car. 

We must understand that there isn’t a “one cap fits all’ when it comes to what is considered traumatic. Trauma is unique to the experiencer. Therefore, anything could be a trigger for anyone. 

Another thing to consider is that triggers will not always be in our control. Going back to the example of the car crash, the traumatized individual could see the model of the car for the rest of his life. This is completely out of his control unless, of course, he decides to confine himself to his home. This shows the importance of healing.

We all have different ways of healing from trauma. There are those that heal when they speak to someone else about the event. E.g family, a therapist, a friend, etc. Others heal better on their own. What worked for me was a combination of both. I made sure there was someone I could speak to for objective input and advice while I reflected deeper on the situation and explored my emotions privately. 

Another way of healing is confronting the triggers -slowly, and if it’s safe to do so- until they stop being triggers. Imagine if you have experienced childhood trauma from family, for instance, speaking to them about what you experienced and how it affected you is an important step forward towards healing. 

Now that you are on your way to healing, it’s time to reprogram your way of thinking. Using the car crash analogy, assuming he has taken safe steps towards healing, he could reprogram his mind so that the next time he sees the car model, his brain registers it as just another car. It would be nigh impossible for him to not encounter a similar car for the rest of his life. It’s best if he tackles the trigger head-on.

3. Transformation

You have healed from your traumatic experience and the triggers have no power over you, what now? My advice is to go on a journey of transformation. It’s time to shed your old skin and grow new ones to accommodate the new and healed you.

Trauma can be burdensome and dropping the burden could feel like a heavyweight being lifted off your shoulders, or like life has given you a restart button. It has. Use it! 

The key to transforming one’s life is introducing positivity into it. You must see every day as an opportunity to achieve a goal. Have a bucket list of goals you want to achieve and don’t be afraid to go for it. Go for walks in nature, appreciate the finer things in life, pray, go out with friends and family, meet new people, start a project, work on your hobbies e.t.c.

You don’t see a butterfly sitting by its cocoon after it emerges, do you? It flies off as far as its wings can take it to experience new adventures. Be that butterfly. The sky is your limit!

Authors note

It’s undeniable that mental health is a growing problem worldwide. Why is it then that we shy away from the topic? Oftentimes, we don’t want to associate ourselves with people suffering from mental health disorders either because we don’t understand how to deal with them, or out of fear for our own safety. It is up to us to educate ourselves on the various mental health disorders out there. Your knowledge could be what saves a person’s life someday. And please let’s not stigmatize mental health, it’s undiscriminating and could happen to anyone.

It is also important to understand that experiencing psychological trauma is not the same as having a mental health disorder. Distinguishing between experiencing a traumatic event and developing a disorder as a result of said event is key.

If you or anyone you know is experiencing trauma, please speak to a professional. The aim of this article is not to give medical advice but to share how I was able to maneuver through and overcome a past traumatic event I experienced.


Trauma and Public Mental Health: A Focused Review

Rolf J. Kleber

Front Psychiatry. 2019; 10: 451.  Published online 2019 Jun 25. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2019.00451

PMCID: PMC6603306

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1 Comment

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    Reply Idoko Luke September 3, 2021 at 3:51 pm

    So useful. Thanks

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