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How to Help Someone Overcome Trauma

Getting over a traumatising experience is not at all easy, even the thought oft-times seem distant. But while we’re talking about trauma, it’s vital to note that one’s experience of it is subjective. The intensity and even the coping mechanisms vary from person to person depending on one’s personality and prior experiences. It interferes with one’s ability to comprehend, or even do chores that require less attention. When you’re traumatised, the part of your brain that responds to threats and sends signals to indicate what’s hazardous and what’s safe keeps sending messages that you’re not safe, as a result, you become alienated from the world and find it hard to trust people. What’s problematic is it doesn’t stop at the experience, it continues to haunt you (sometimes after years) and alters your brain’s effective functioning. 

But, before we get into what it does and how we may overcome it, let’s have a look at what it is in the first place…


To understand what trauma is, it’s equally important to grasp what it is not:

  • Trauma isn’t the same as stress. 
  • Trauma is your reaction to an incident, not the event itself. 

Now, the word trauma is generally associated with a terrible event but it is actually the subjective response to an experience, what happens after you experience something traumatic, and it is what sticks with you. You face difficulties managing your emotions, and instead they take control of you, causing your body to relive the same experience over and over again. 

How serious it becomes or how long it lasts is determined by the environment in which one lives; is it supportive? Are the people compassionate? Do they comprehend the concept of trauma?

In general, trauma affects people of all ages and genders in different ways; women are more vulnerable to it, and their effects linger for a long time.

Likewise, childhood is a preparatory stage; it is the foundational stage that moulds a person; it is also a stage in which people grasp things more quickly and easily. It has been discovered that childhood trauma can have a long-term effect, increasing the risk of developing mental health and substance abuse disorders later in life. Experiences like witnessing physical or verbal abuse between parents can have a negative impact on a child’s development. These stressful occurrences can also make activities like transferring to a new school and meeting new people upsetting for an individual, who may fear not fitting in, and this fear in turn can result in early isolation. These events may also trigger other stressful situations, such as an inability to feel comfortable in one’s own skin, causing social relationships to deteriorate.  

Trauma is completely subjective (as discussed before), the way one reacts to it may differ from how the other person does, and what is traumatic to one person may not be traumatic to another, yet there are some commonly recognised symptoms including: 

  • Flashbacks or nightmares
  • Fear or anxiety
  • Guilt or shame
  • Difficulty embracing one’s own body
  • Mood swings or emotional outbursts
  • Nervousness or denial

Now, after learning a bit about trauma, we’re left with the question ‘What causes it?’ What exactly are the events we have been discussing?

Any incident or experience that leaves you feeling overwhelmed, alienated, or frightened, such as unemployment, poverty, the loss of a loved one, physical or verbal abuse, bullying, and so on, can induce trauma.

Trauma can also develop as a result of hearing about another person’s painful experience or witnessing something horrific happen to an acquaintance, friend, or stranger. The way a person perceives the world, their values, and beliefs, and how they are as a whole determine one’s reaction to it. 

Differentiating Trauma and PTSD

The terms “trauma” and “post-traumatic stress disorder” are frequently used interchangeably, but they are not the same thing despite having similar symptoms. 

Trauma is a subjective response to an experience while PTSD is a mental disorder that is a result of a prolonged traumatic experience after the event has occurred. 

We don’t always realise and we don’t always try to think about what we’re saying to others who are suffering, but it is important that we do. Someone approaching you and asking for help does not always require a lecture on how they should try harder (they already are). Sometimes all one needs is a patient listener (give them time to frame their sentences), give your advice when asked, and try to avoid phrases like:

  • “I know how much it must be hurting” (you don’t) 
  • “Don’t stress yourself up much, it’ll be fine.” (It’s not like they invited emotions to grip them; you cannot just subjugate or stop feeling something)
  • “You’re overreacting” (They’re not!)
  • “It could be worse” (Yeah, it could be, but it doesn’t change the way they’re feeling) 
  • “You should talk about it” (‘should’ implies a compulsion and nobody likes doing something under someone’s defined boundaries, rather just let them know you’re there, give them time to comprehend and accept)

Overcoming Trauma 

Overcoming trauma is not easy, it is not supposed to be, but just know that it’s a long way and we’ll get there. We’re all capable of healing and we deserve to be healed, we deserve to live a life where we aren’t constantly scared of the demon lurking in the corner, waiting to devour us. All we need is a little help and we’re here to help you take that first step: 


  • Acceptance: The first step towards recovery is acceptance. And now, acceptance isn’t easy, it’s difficult to look into the eyes of trauma and question it; take one step at a time. If you’re not able to do it today, it’s okay, do it tomorrow, if you can’t do it tomorrow, do it whenever you feel you can. Acceptance also implies accepting the fact that it is you who is getting affected by it and it’s you who can make a change, try when you feel you’re ready, there’s no rush, and there’s no success that is more important than your mental well being. 
  • Self-compassion- Know that what happened wasn’t your fault (and don’t let anyone convince you otherwise) and that your responses are totally understandable, there’s no right or ethical way of reacting, and you’re doing a great job just getting out of your bed and getting on with your life.  
  • Ask for help: If you need assistance to recover from your trauma, don’t be afraid to ask for it; there’s no shame in it, and it’s the bravest thing one can do. 

While stage: 

If your trauma persists, get professional assistance, there are a variety of therapies that might be beneficial, including: 

  • Psychotherapy: some forms of psychotherapy are also called talk therapy, one of them is CPT (Cognitive Processing Therapy). Sometimes your brain blocks the details of a traumatic event, it’s just a haze, and to understand an event you come to unhealthy conclusions like staying away from people because it’s not safe. CPT helps in correcting those conclusions and directs them to a healthier way. It usually consists of 12 sessions during which you and your therapist collaborate to understand the traumatic event. 
  • EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing)- Under this therapy, the therapist wiggles his fingers in front of your eyes and urges you to think about your experience. As a result, your brain interprets current reality from a new perspective. Although this may appear strange, it has proven to be an effective method for treating trauma, allowing people to let go of what had happened to them. This method is also cost-effective and WHO recommends it for the treatment of PTSD. 
  • Yoga and meditation – Albeit these might not be the strategies that can provide complete relief, they are often prescribed by therapists as a supplement to medication. Yoga can help you become more aware of your body, while meditation can help you focus on the present moment. 
  • Write: Writing about your experience or your life in general aids in the processing of trauma, and it is also recommended by therapists as a supplement to medicine. It can also shorten treatment time. 


  • Have patience: While some people may heal faster, others can take a long time, just keep believing in the process and in your abilities to deal with ordeals. The path to healing isn’t simple; it’s crooked and full of thorns, but all you require is a little patience and self-love to get through it. 

If something isn’t working for you, don’t worry; there are plenty of other options which may. It won’t be easy; it wasn’t designed to be easy, but remember that you weren’t made for easy things either.  

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