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Posted 06/15/2021 in Christian Mental Health Tips

What Is Trauma and How to Cope

What Is Trauma and How to Cope

Bible Verse for how to deal with a traumatic event

You probably landed on this article because you are looking to understand what is trauma and/or how to deal with trauma?  This article includes a basic overview of trauma as well as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) from a Christian therapist's perspective.  

What is Trauma?

Before we begin I think it is really important that we have a shared definition of trauma.  One of the trauma experts in the mental health field said that a "Traumatic events overwhelm the ordinary human adaptations to life…they confront human beings with the extremities of helplessness and terror.” Judith Herman.  However, I like the below definition of trauma: 

A trauma is any event that changes for the worse the way you see yourself, other people, the world or God.

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What Causes Traumas ?

Trauma results from experiencing a highly stressful event. One that you felt frightened or distressed in but had little to no control over.  These events can be one-time situations like an injury or accident.  Or it could be ongoing stress, like abuse, living with a life-threatening disease, or losing a loved one.  

In order to be consider a trauma, the event has to leave you feeling helpless and insecure. You may feel like you failed yourself or that God has failed you and it takes a toll on your emotional health.   

What is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder? 

People often use the terms trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder interchangeably; however, they are not the same.  

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a psychiatric mental health problem that affects around 6-10% of the US population and manifests itself after a stressful experience, whether actual or perceived.

Other mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, or substance misuse disorders, are frequently associated with PTSD. In fact, approximately 80% of PTSD patients are additionally diagnosed with at least one other psychiatric disease during their lifetime.

While the mental science behind the development of PTSD is not fully known, it appears to involve three major brain cortexes. The prefrontal cortex, hippocampus, and amygdala are the three cortexes. There is also a chemical imbalance involving norepinephrine and glucocorticoid levels, according to research. The larger the chemical imbalance in these three brain regions, the more severe the PTSD symptoms.

What Symptoms are caused by Experiencing a Trauma

Because people process trauma differently, each person's experience is as unique as they are. As a result, everyone will have somewhat different symptoms.

Reexperiencing Symptoms

Reexperiencing symptoms include reliving the event through nightmares; flashbacks (i.e., nightmares that are experienced while the person is awake) or frightening thoughts. Reexperiencing the trauma can also cause physical symptoms like sweating, heart palpitations, and anxiety.

Avoidance Symptoms 

People who have experienced a trauma may avoid sounds, objects, and places that remind them of the traumatic event. For example:

  • avoiding places, situations, or things that remind you of the traumatic experience

  • avoiding thoughts or feelings related to the traumatic event

Arousal and Reactivity Symptoms

These symptoms are frequently persistent. They might make daily tasks, like concentrating, sleeping, or relaxing difficult.

Examples of these symptoms include:

  • being easily startled

  • feeling tense, anxious, or “on edge”

  • difficulty sleeping

  • experiencing angry outbursts

Cognition and Mood Symptoms

Cognition and mood symptoms often begin or worsen after the traumatic event and can make you feel detached from friends and family members. These symptoms include:

  • trouble remembering key details of the traumatic event

  • negative thoughts about the world or yourself

  • feelings of guilt, blame, or shame

  • loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed

How is PTSD Diagnosed 

PTSD can be diagnosed by a mental health practitioner. While some ofHOW TO DEAL WITH TRAUMA QUOTE Facebook PostLike this content of Facebook these symptoms are normal for a few weeks following a traumatic experience, they are called PTSD when they linger more than a month and must be severe enough to interfere with your ability to function at work/school and at home, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).

In addition, you must have all the following symptoms for a PTSD diagnosis to apply:

  • at least one reexperiencing symptom

  • at least one avoidance symptom

  • at least two arousal and reactivity symptoms

  • at least two cognition and mood symptoms

How To Deal With a Trauma or PTSD From a Christian Perspective 

Traumatic events are something that affects everyone differently. While there are some people who feel scarred for life after experiencing trauma and experience triggers.  

Others find the capacity to not only recover but also grow from their traumatic experience. The good news is, effective recovery from trauma is possible for everyone. However, it requires faith, hard work, and dedication to the process.

Trying to navigate the emotions and thoughts that happen after a traumatic event is hard. You can't do it on your own, no one can.  To heal effectively you will need to connect with God and with people. Feeling loved and supported is vital for your recovery.

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Remind Yourself of God's Truth

God's truth is found in His Word, and His Word says He is good.

  • His Word says that all things will work together for your good (Romans 8:28). His word says no weapon formed against you shall prosper (Isaiah 54:17). 

  • It says He will take what the enemy meant for evil and turn it for good (Genesis 50:20). 

  • It says that nothing can separate you from God's love (Romans  8:38).

No matter what your traumatic experience was, love, hope, and comfort can be found in God's Word.  Make time read His Word, learn the truth, and use it against any lie from the enemy that causes you emotional pain. 

You may find it helpful to having several Bible verses written down and turned into a prayer.  A lot of people find these eight Bible prayer cards helpful.  

Focus on Basic Needs

“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10 (NIV)

The overload of emotions, images, and memories from your experience can be heavy on your brain.  You may start to say things like "I cannot process anything, so why bother trying."This feeling of numbness results from shock and the overloading of your brain.

During this time it will be hard for you to think clearly or rationally. For someone who's been through what you have it is normal to feel this way, so don't push yourself too hard. Instead, focus on your basic needs, spiritually, emotionally, and physically. Anything more than that does not need your focus right now, your mind needs time to recover.

If you have major responsibilities that you don't feel able to cope with such as children or work. Ask for help. It would be best for you and everyone involved.


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Express Your Feelings 

The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. Psalm 34:17

When your mind begins to recover, your emotions will start to return.  In most cases, people can process their feelings and work through it with the help of their loved ones.  However, if your trauma was intense or prolonged, you might need professional help to navigate these waters.  You can find a mental health provider near you by searching our directory located here: Directory 

During this stage, it is crucial that you express your emotions.  You need to tell your story. The more you discuss your feelings, the more you can detach your distress from the memories of the events.  Feeling these intense emotions now will play an enormous part in your complete healing because there is a godly purpose for your feelings.  

Taking Action

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

After you've expressed and come to terms with your emotions.  Find something to do that allows you to feel powerful and purposeful.  When you take action and make a difference even in the smallest of ways, it leaves you with a sense of control. You got through what you went through because God has a plan and purpose for you.  His heart is always for His people, so do what you can to help His people and trust Him to continue helping you.

Identify and Manage Your Triggers

When a person has been through a traumatic event, they are more vulnerable to being triggered by a circumstance or setting. Survivors who are triggered in this manner may experience feelings of helplessness, betrayal, and terror. These are all normal reactions when a stressful event occurs. However, identifying and resolving your triggers is another excellent way to deal with trauma.  

Accept the New You

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV) 

As a trauma survivor, you will find yourself changing and growing in many ways.  You will no longer be the person you were before that traumatic experience. This is why it is necessary for you to find ways to reintegrate the new you into your life.

Your values may have shifted, and your priorities might have changed.  You may be closer to God than you ever were because you know He is the reason you made it through.  You may be more thankful for those who were there for you and you may even set more boundaries so you don't get hurt again. 

Finial Thoughts About How to Deal With Trauma 

Things will change in multiple different ways, but it will all be for your good. The best is yet to come. So be ready to embrace this new version of you with all of your heart. The version that is different from before but so much stronger than you ever imagined you could be.  The version that trusts God and all of His ways.  The version that has pushed through unimaginable pain and yet looks ahead with faith at a future that shines brighter than the past.

If you are looking for more resources on trauma, check out our below recommendations.  

Unshame: Healing trauma-based shame through psychotherapyUnshame: Healing trauma-based shame through psychotherapyThe Heart of Trauma: Healing the Embodied Brain in the Context of Relationships (Norton Series on Interpersonal Neurobiology)The Heart of Trauma: Healing the Embodied Brain in the Context of Relationships (Norton Series on Interpersonal Neurobiology)Getting Past Your Past: Take Control of Your Life with Self-Help Techniques from EMDR TherapyGetting Past Your Past: Take Control of Your Life with Self-Help Techniques from EMDR TherapyThe Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of TraumaThe Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma


About the Author: 

Corine Williams, Ph.D. is Clinical Psychologist that is currently seeing clients in the States of Maryland, New Jersey, and New York. You can find out more about her practice by visiting   www.therapyforchristians.com/corinewilliams.     In addition to providing individual therapy, Dr. Williams is also passionate about writing books and designing merchandise that educate, uplift, and normalize mental health subject in the Christian community. You can find out more about her at  www.booksbycorine.com or by visiting her amazon profile here: https://www.amazon.com/Corine-Hyman/e/B00AWZ5FL2

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