Possible Trauma Reactions
This page includes information on various trauma reactions A survivor may experience several of these reactions. Please note that this page is still being worked on, and even when it's completed, not seeing your reaction to trauma on here does not mean that it is not valid. There's so many different real and valid ways to reaction to trauma that we simply couldn't possibly cover them all. Everyone responds differently. This page lists the ones that are really common, but you're still valid if your response to trauma is relatively rare. This page is different than the "trauma responses" page as this page focuses on reactions after trauma and/or dangerous situations whereas the "trauma responses" page focuses on responses during or immediately after such situations.
People are very, very social creatures. Trauma can make people feel very vulnerable and cause them to rely excessively on other people to meet emotional or physical needs. Relying on someone else to "have your back" or take care of you can feel safer when you were unable to protect yourself in the past. It's okay and healthy to want to rely on people to some degree (see below for how hyperindependence isn't healthy either), but relying on others to the extent where when they aren't available you become overwhelmed or unable to care for yourself isn't sustainable. Relying on other people without their consent and having inappropriate expectations of others isn't fair. People close to you will often want to help, and letting them help you out can build and reinforce trust and connection, but it's important to be mindful of their boundaries and consent. They may be struggling with their own trauma, mental health challenges, or other issues. They may just be having a bad day or really busy, and not have any extra emotional bandwidth to support you. Needing a lot of energy or attention from the same few people over and over again can put a lot of strain on interpersonal relationships. Also, codependence can make it harder for people to leave abusive situations, and make them more appealing targets for abusers (important note: abuse is never your fault. It is always the abuser's fault for making the choice to abuse, even if you are especially vulnerable or unable to leave due to codependence).
Individuals who have experienced trauma may have difficulty regulating their emotions, especially if the trauma happened when they were children. Understanding reasonable levels of emotional response is something children often have trouble with and have to learn and work on, in general. Trauma can cause this learning process to be derailed or misdirected, leading to unusually high responses to emotions. This is particularly true for emotions related to a trauma, which often include anxiety, anger, sadness and/or shame. These individuals may find these emotions to be so strong that they are overwhelming, or may shut them out and become numb to them.
Trauma can really destroy someone's sense of safety. If others have let you down (or even if something happened that was nobody's fault or that nobody could realistically have protected you from, like a natural disaster) and you got hurt, your brain can respond by not wanting to rely on anyone else who might hurt you or fail to protect you in the future. Hyperindependence can look like believing that others will always let you down, being unwilling to open up to and talk to anyone, struggling to commit in platonic or romantic relationships, or insisting on doing everything yourself even if someone else who is more suited for the task has offered to help.
It's important to note that hypersexuality is not just a response to sexual trauma, but can be a response to any type of trauma.
Individuals who have experienced trauma may be more “on edge” due to worries (consciously or not) that another trauma could happen. This can manifest in extremely light sleep, difficulty getting to sleep and other sleep issues, an unusually high startle response and/or extra muscle tension. This can make it very difficult to relax, and can add stress to one’s life - without even counting the fact that a lack of restful sleep has physical impacts of its own.
It is not uncommon for survivors of trauma to minimize their experiences. They may tell themselves it's "not that bad" or that "others have it worse." This can be an attempt to cope, but can also be a result of conditioning or avoidance. This may also be what's known as "trauma imposter syndrome."
Please see this blog post for more information on trauma imposter syndrome.
It's important to note that sex repulsion is not just a response to sexual trauma, but can be a response to any type of trauma. Sex indifference, loss of libido, or difficulty with sexual performance may also result from trauma. If you choose to identify as asexual because it is the term that best describes your experience, you are valid and allowed to use that term even if you know or suspect that your asexuality may be a result of trauma. If your asexuality disappears after healing from trauma, you are still valid and it doesn't mean your asexuality was fake.
When you're in survival mode due to trauma, it's normal to shut down. One possible way in which people shut down is sexually. It's also possible to shut down mentally (e.g. memory issues, difficult concentrating), emotionally (e.g. feeling numb, inability to connect with others), or physically (e.g. feeling tired, migraines, excessive sleep).
A trauma trigger is caused by the previous experience of a traumatic event. A trigger can be just about anything. Triggers may be sounds, sights, smells, tastes or textures that are connected with a traumatic event. Other possibilities are a location where an event happened, or a date or time of day when it happened. Any or all of these types of triggers are valid and reasonable. There are no “silly” or “stupid” triggers. Triggers can be anything. And they also bring forth a variety of reactions like flashbacks, panic attacks, overwhelming emotions and more.
Please see this blog post about "triggers" for more information.
More Trauma Information