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Breaking Through Barriers and Embracing Resilience in Trauma Recovery

Many people recover from traumatic and stressful life events with time. However, finding resilience in trauma does not come naturally to everyone. There are a variety of protective factors and risk factors that contribute to your ability to recover from trauma. When you lack the necessary protective factors to support resilience in trauma, you become vulnerable to developing trauma-related disorders. Without resilience in trauma, you are at a greater risk for disorders like acute stress disorder (ASD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

As the Cleveland Clinic notes in “Acute Stress Disorder” 6% to 33% of people will develop ASD closely following a traumatic event. Moreover, as stated by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), approximately 3.6% of adults in the U.S. will develop PTSD in a given year. Further as noted by the American Psychiatric Association (APA), around 1 in 11 will be diagnosed with PTSD. The prevalence of trauma-related disorders has also doubled for women and tripled for people of color.

At The Guest House, we know it can be difficult to recognize what events and situations in your life are traumatizing. You may convince yourself that the deeply distressing things you have been through are small or insignificant. However, countless traumatic experiences can lead to profound psychological distress and self-defeating behaviors. Thus, we are committed to providing the space and holistic support you need to build the skills you need for resilience in trauma recovery. First understanding what trauma is can give you insight into how trauma can harm your physical and psychological well-being.

What Is Trauma?

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), trauma is any event or circumstance that results in physical, emotional, and or life-threatening harm. Moreover, experiences with poor resilience in trauma can have a lasting adverse impact on your physical, emotional, mental, social, and spiritual well-being. While as SAMHSA points out, most traumatic experiences will not result in long-term impairment, everyone experiences and responds to trauma in different ways.

Although, it is rarely beneficial or welcomed, experiencing trauma is a normal part of life. Thus, resilience in trauma becomes an important tool as individuals, families, and communities rely on resilience in trauma to get through stressful life experiences together. Whether you can find resilience in trauma or not is impacted by a variety of risk and protective factors. The three main focus points that can impact the way you perceive and experience trauma include:

  • Objective and subjective characteristics
    • Single trauma
      • A traumatic event limited to a single point in time
        • Rape
        • Car accident
        • Loss of a loved one
    • Repeated trauma
      • A series of traumas that happens to the same person over time
        • Repeated sexual and or physical assault
    • Sustained or chronic trauma
      • A constant state of distress that erodes resilience in trauma and your ability to adapt
        • Chronic poverty
        • Intimate partner violence (IPV)
        • Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs)
    • Time to process
      • Cascading trauma
        • You experience multiple traumas with no space to heal before another trauma happens
    • Losses associated with trauma
      • A house fire that leads to significant financial distress and or homelessness
      • Children taking on parental responsibilities for a parent
    • Expected and unexpected trauma
    • Intentional and unintentional trauma
    • Direct or indirect trauma
      • Going through a life-threatening illness is a direct trauma
      • Watching a loved one go through a life-threatening illness is indirect trauma
    • Level of long-term disruption
      • The disruption of  day-to-day activities and routines can erode your sense of normalcy and safety
    • You frame the meaning of trauma through a variety of features
      • Culture
      • Family beliefs
      • Prior life experiences
      • Seeing trauma as retribution for your past actions
      • Believing your trauma serves a greater purpose
    • Disruption of core assumptions and beliefs
      • Safety, others, fairness, and purpose are challenged
  • Resilience in trauma
    • Maintaining mutually supportive connections with family, community, culture, and spiritual systems
  • Individual and sociocultural features
    • History of psychological trauma
      • Increase risk for more severe traumatic responses, especially when past trauma has been avoided
    • Your history of resilience in trauma
      • Influenced by your internal strengths and environmental support
    • History of mental health disorders
      • Co-occurring mental health disorders can impede the processing of trauma
    • Sociodemographic factors
      • Gender
        • Women are at a greater risk for exposure to stressful and traumatic life events
        • Men have a higher prevalence of PTSD, but women are twice as likely to experience lifetime PTSD
      • Race, ethnicity, and culture
        • Certain racial and ethnic groups are at a greater risk for exposure to traumatic experiences
      • Sexual orientation and gender identity
        • More likely to experience various forms of trauma
          • Harsh response from families with faith traditions
          • Increased risk for sexual assault and hate crimes
          • Lack of legal protections
          • Exclusion-based laws

In addition to objective and subjective characteristics and individual and sociocultural features of trauma, there are different types of traumatic events and experiences. Trauma is pervasive as many different types of trauma overlap each other. No one particular trauma is more important, distressing, or destructive to everyday life than another. Each trauma and its impact is unique to the individual, group, or community who must discover or rediscover themselves in the wake of one or more traumatic events.

Types of Trauma

Common types of traumas are based on the context of your life. Some types of trauma may be more common based on the kind of work you do and or where you live. For example, trauma related to specific types of injuries and threats may be more common in military, police, and hospital settings compared to other types of work. Listed below are some common types of traumatic experiences that can happen in childhood and adulthood:

  • Trauma from natural disasters
    • Flooding
    • Wildfires
    • Strong winds
  • Individual trauma
    • A trauma that happens to one person
    • Can include single events, multiple events, or prolonged events
      • Mugging
      • Life-threatening illness
  • Group trauma
    • Traumas that impact a specific group of people
      • First responders
      • Military service members
  • Community and cultural trauma
    • Violence that erodes the community’s sense of safety
      • Hate crimes
      • Robberies
      • Gang-related violence
      • School and or other community center shootings or stabbings
    • Historical trauma also known as generational trauma
      • Traumatic events that impact an entire culture and influence generations of culture
        • The enslavement and lynching of African Americans
        • Forced assimilation and relocation of Native Americans
        • Extermination of Jewish people and others during World War II
  • Mass trauma
    • Trauma that impacts a large group of people either directly or indirectly
      • Earthquakes
      • Hurricanes
  • Developmental trauma
    • ACEs
      • Physical, sexual, and emotional abuse
      • Neglect
        • Unstable housing
        • Lack of food
        • No medical care
        • Exposure to dangerous environments
        • Lack of emotional support
        • Abandonment
      • Unaddressed parental substance use disorder (SUD)
      • Loss of parent
        • Death
        • Separation
        • Divorce
        • Incarceration
  • Military trauma
    • Combat exposure
    • Military sexual trauma (MST)
  • Terrorism and Political terror
    • Threatens community existence, beliefs, well-being, and or livelihood

Looking at the different types of trauma highlights the complexities of traumatic experiences. Different types of trauma like ACEs is another factor that can contribute to your ability to develop or maintain resilience in trauma. When left unaddressed, trauma can have a significant impact on your well-being. Some of the signs and symptoms of untreated trauma, along with ASD and PTSD symptoms, that can impede your well-being include:

  • Recurring memories
  • Flashbacks
  • Recurring nightmares
  • Dissociation
  • Feeling disconnected from others and the world
  • Difficulty feeling positive emotions
  • Increased negative emotions
  • Hypervigilance
  • Avoidance behaviors
    • Thoughts and feelings related to the trauma
    • People, places, and things related to the trauma

Looking at the signs and symptoms of trauma-related disorders highlights the need for treatment to support trauma recovery. When left unaddressed, challenges with trauma and stress can impair your daily functioning, relationships, and life goals.

As the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) notes, several risk factors and resilience or protective factors can influence the impact of trauma on your life. Thus, understanding the factors that support resilience in trauma is vital to the healing process.

What Is Resilience in Trauma

According to the APA, resilience in trauma is the process and positive adaption to challenging life experiences. Through resilience in trauma, you can effectively respond to internal and external pressures that impact your behavior and mental and emotional well-being. Resilience in trauma gives you the necessary coping strategies and skills for flexibility in the face of adversity.

Moreover, according to the U.S. Department of State (DOS), resilient people can adapt to stress, crisis, and trauma by recognizing their strengths and leaning into those protective factors. While some people seem to exhibit more resilience in trauma than others, resilience can be learned and developed. As noted by the VA, listed below are some of the protective factors that can contribute to how resilient you are:

  • Higher level of education
  • Greater capacity for hope and optimism
  • Experiencing less negative emotions
  • Greater emotional regulation
  • More perceived coping self-efficacy
  • Access to social support
  • Deeper social connectedness
    • Improve access and capacity for knowledge
    • Increases opportunities for social support activities
      • Practical problem-solving
      • Emotional understanding and acceptance
      • Sharing traumatic experiences
      • Normalizing reactions and experiences with trauma
      • Mutual coping strategies
  • Social cohesion
  • Access to resources

The protective factors for resilience in trauma showcase the value of connection and access to resources as valuable tools for recovery. Yet, you may wonder how you can develop and support your resilience in trauma. There are a variety of ways you can increase your resilience in trauma to process and bounce back from the stressors of life.

Fostering Resilience in Trauma With Holistic Care

As stated in Frontiers in Psychiatry, resilience is an active and dynamic process that shifts and changes across your life course. Thus, resilience is not a passive response to adversity, the opposite of PTSD, devoid of distress, or trauma-related symptoms. Resilience in trauma does not make you invulnerable to the stressors of life. You will not spend your days toughing it out or pulling yourself up by your bootstraps with no regard for the harm you have experienced.

Rather, resiliency gives you healthy tools to get through the challenges of life. You will still experience sadness, anger, and frustration among many other emotions throughout your life. Yet, resiliency gives you the strength to meet those challenges and find a way to move forward while still living a fulfilling and purposeful life. Through a holistic approach to resilience in trauma, you can build skills and strategies that empower you to reach your full potential and thrive in the world.

With top-down interventions that address the mind-body connection between experiences and your inner self, you can foster resilience in trauma and support your mental well-being. As noted in the Journal of Contemporary Psychotherapy, incorporating your unique sociocultural background with evidence-based treatments can support your pathway to resilience in trauma. Listed below are some of the holistic interventions and strategies you can use to foster resilience in trauma:

  • Mindfulness and meditation
    • Deepens self-awareness by giving purposeful and non-judgmental attention to the present moment
      • Reduces stress
      • Improves mood
      • Promotes a healthier mindset
  • Physical activity
    • Enhances mood
  • Social support
    • Models supportive relationships
    • Reduces negative emotions
    • Encourages connecting with others
    • Increase positive emotions
    • Builds self-efficacy
    • Disclosure
      • Your ability to share the story of your trauma with others
        • Supports social connectedness for resilience in trauma
        • Increases positive effect on mental and emotional well-being
  • Practicing normalcy
    • Promoting a return to your routine can support resilience in trauma
      • Countering avoidance
        • Recognizing avoidant behaviors
        • Learning to cope with fears
      • Reducing impairment
        • Providing access to functional resources to promote behaviors of resilience in trauma
          • Employment opportunities
          • Reliable transportation
          • Educational opportunities
      • Event scheduling
        • Scheduling pleasant activities into your daily routine to support resilience in trauma
          • Promotes and reinforces contact with positive experiences
          • Increases self-esteem and mood
            • Going on walks
            • Spending time with pets
  • Meaning making
    • Finding meaning in your trauma supports resilience in trauma
      • Avoidance and beliefs
        • Resilient beliefs encourage a positive shift in your sense of self
      • The central role of meaning-making
        • Holistic exercises encourage resilience in trauma
          • Positive learning opportunities that challenge negative cognitions
            • Increases social engagement
            • Encourages building and maintaining a daily routine
            • Decreases avoidance

Despite the various evidence-based treatments and therapeutic interventions available, building resilience in trauma can be disrupted. Seeking support and building resilience in trauma can be impeded by several barriers. Thus, understanding the barriers to trauma treatment can support building tools to overcome barriers to resilience in trauma.

Addressing Barriers to Resilience in Trauma

Although many people will find resilience in trauma through inner resources and social support, many others face additional barriers to treatment. Barriers to resilience in trauma can stem from both trauma-related and resource challenges. As the Global Health Action notes, there is a major global mental health treatment gap that impairs access to knowledge to support resilience in trauma. Listed below are some of the trauma-related and treatment gap barriers that disrupt seeking or finding effective treatment:

  • Stigma
  • Low mental health literacy
  • Poor support-seeking skills
    • Trying to solve issues on your own
    • Refusal to acknowledge disorder
  • Lack of support from loved ones
  • Prior negative experience with healthcare services
  • Social barriers
    • Financial insecurity
  • Avoidance of trauma disclosure
    • Avoids disclosing experiences to others
    • Less likely to seek treatment to avoid trauma triggers
  • Resource limits
    • Fewer clinicians trained in trauma-specific care

While there are a variety of barriers to seeking resilience in trauma, recovery is possible. Awareness of the barriers and the resources available can give you insight into how to overcome barriers to support your resilience in trauma. Therefore, with a deeper understanding of trauma, you can break down misconceptions to support building your resilience in trauma.

Healing From Trauma at The Guest House

There are a wide variety of misconceptions about mental health in general. The lack of mental health literacy coupled with stigma and resource barriers leaves a big gap between distress and healing. One of the major misconceptions about traumatic experiences is that the pain of trauma is a life sentence. Your trauma-related symptoms do not have to define you or diminish your quality of life.

Resilience in trauma to support long-term healing is possible when you have access to knowledge and holistic resiliency-focused care. Thus, discussing your trauma and building social support for resilience in trauma is a vital part of the recovery process. At The Guest House, we are committed to providing holistic, trauma-specific care to get to the root of your challenges for lasting recovery. With access to a wide range of holistic therapies and modalities, you can engage in resiliency-focused treatment to support resilience in trauma.

Our treatment plans are customizable, so you can work with your clinicians to find the trauma recovery plan that matches your needs. Through our commitment to holistic care, you have a safe and judgment-free space to share your experiences. While everyone’s experiences are unique to them, resiliency-focused care puts you in contact with a loving network of peers who understand the pains of trauma. Therefore, increasing your knowledge of trauma can give you the tools you need to reach out for the support you deserve to thrive in life.

Overcoming trauma is connected to resilience. However, there are numerous risk factors and protective factors that can contribute to negative and positive outcomes. Some risk factors that can impede building resilience in trauma include marginalized communities like women, people of color, and LGBTQIA+ individuals. Moreover, there are barriers like lack of social support, low mental health literacy, and limited resources that can impair seeking trauma treatment. Yet, resilience is an active and dynamic process that can be learned and developed to support your long-term well-being. At The Guest House, we are dedicated to providing holistic care to give you access to individualized resiliency-focused treatment to build the skills you need for healing. Call us at (855) 483-7800 today.