When most of us think about trauma, we tend to think about war, physical or sexual abuse, terrorism, major accidents, and natural disasters. These catastrophic events are often profoundly devastating, and what some refer to as large ‘T’ Traumas. They are extraordinary events that leave survivors feeling powerless and helplessness.
The first criteria required for a diagnosis of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is exposure to actual or threatened death, serious injury, or sexual violence; these are typically large ‘T’ Traumas. Fortunately, these events are relatively uncommon, and the majority of us will be spared from these experiences during our lifetime.
Even among those who are exposed to a large ‘T’ Trauma, only a minority will go on to develop PTSD. For many people, their natural coping mechanisms kick in and the immediate reactions that occur naturally after a large ‘T’ Trauma diminish over time.
However, individuals do not have to endure one significant large-T Trauma event to be affected. There are a variety of situations that exceed our capacity to cope and lead to an inability to function at our normal levels. While these kinds of events are not inherently life-threatening, they most certainly feel threatening to who you are, what you believe in, and what you think about the world. These kinds of events are small “t” traumas.
Some examples of small “t” traumas include:
- Severe conflict with your boss, supervisor, or colleagues
- Having a child
- Legal trouble
- Abrupt or extended move or relocation
- Severe financial difficulty
For some people, one of these events may be enough to overwhelm their capacity for a prolonged period of time. For others, the accumulation of multiple small “t” traumas, especially in a short period of time, can lead to significant distress and trouble with functioning at work, school, or home.
These kinds of events are often downplayed as common experiences, and those struggling to cope sometimes feel ashamed or “weak.” But the reality is, we all struggle from time-to-time with the obstacles life throws at us. Part of healing and recovering from these obstacles includes acknowledging the adversity, leaning on support systems, and taking steps with the guidance of an expert to reclaim the impact it’s having on your life.
The biggest enemy when facing a large “T” or small “t” trauma is avoidance. People engage in a wide variety of behaviors in an attempt to reduce the distress or avoid reminders of the traumatic event (e.g., avoid watching the news, avoid public places, and avoid meaningful relationships). But the longer someone engages in avoidance, the more the distress grows. The only way out of trauma is through it.
But you don’t have to suffer in silence or face the trauma by yourself! There are treatments and techniques that can help. While there are no quick fixes or “cures” for what you have already endured, many people are successful in eradicating the impact of the trauma on their lives with the help of a professional. Plenty more have reported a significant improvement in the quality of their lives.
Reach out for help today and get started on your journey to recovery and growth!