trauma survival symptoms

Surviving trauma in the moment of the traumatic event depends on the psychological and physiological splitting off of the trauma experience, which then becomes unconscious. This happens through a freeze and fragment process which comes into play when the high stress response of fight or flight fails.

Some survival strategies are more destructive and serious than others, but in general they are the ways we develop to manage the chaotic and terrifying experiences of the unconscious split off trauma when they threaten to surface (known as re-triggering or retraumatisation). Broadly they allow us to dissociate from the here-and-now situation and distract ourselves from whatever is currently causing the trauma to resurface. Essentially at the time of the original trauma this was life-saving, but later these strategies tend to become limiting, disturbing and even severely self-destructive. It is sometimes the case that what originated as something that saved us, eventually becomes something that will destroy us.

The following are some of the conditions that we would see as being ways of managing trauma by dissociation and distraction; they vary in their seeming seriousness:

Any kind of addiction including: drug, alcohol, medication, cigarettes, work addiction, gaming, sex addiction, food addiction.

Avoidant behaviour: avoidance of anything that is a challenge, avoidance of intimacy, difficulty with relationships.

Psychological and Emotional disorders such as: eating disorders, anorexia, bulimia, personality disorders such as Borderline and Narcissistic Personality Disorders, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder etc., all compulsions and obsessions.

All types of depression including: Post-natal depression, non-clinical depression.

Self-destructive behaviours such as cutting, self-harming, anorexia etc

Severe Psychological Diagnoses: bi-polar disorder, clinical depression, psychosis, schizophrenia, dissociative identity disorder are likely to originate as unresolved trauma, often several generations back.

Suicidal ideation, tendencies or attempts

Perpetrator-victim attitudes: the dynamics, while based in traumatisation, may be repeatedly lived out in relationships as attitudes that in themselves prevent the person from really acknowledging the truth of their trauma and feeling the feelings involved.

All illnesses may have unresolved trauma in the background as a contributory factor, most particularly illnesses like Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, digestive disorders such as Irritable bowel, Crones disease, dementia, cancers, any stress-oriented or irritational illnesses.