Recovering from Emotional Trauma

What can you expect if you are recovering from emotional trauma?

recovering from emotional trauma

Situations that can lead to emotional trauma involve interpersonal conflicts and/or violence, such as rape, abuse, suicide of a friend or relative, natural disasters, accidents, or being a victim of crime.

Everyone reacts differently to trauma, although it is common to experience some disruption in coping or normal functioning. This could happen immediately after the traumatic experience – or symptoms may arise later on.

Emotional Trauma: what to expect

If you are suffering from emotional trauma, it can affect you in various ways:


  • Increased alertness and being excessively aware of surrounding danger;
  • Startle or frighten easily;
  • Physical exhaustion/fatigue;
  • Disrupted sleep pattern;
  • Headaches.


  • Recurring thoughts of past traumatic event (flashbacks);
  • Visual memories of the event, and nightmares during sleep;
  • Disorientation/confusion;
  • Difficulties concentrating.


  • Avoidance of places or people that remind the individual of the traumatic experience;
  • Social withdrawal/isolation;
  • loss of interest/reduced pleasure in things that were once enjoyable.


  • Intense fear and emotional detachment from certain things;
  • Anger, shame and irritability;
  • Depression and anxiety.

If the symptoms are not chronic and severe, they are generally normal reactions to trauma. Although distressing, they are part of the healing process as your body and brain try to make sense and put perspective on the traumatic experience.

Recovering from Emotional Trauma

Here are some tips to help you in the recovery process:

  • Allow yourself to experience a reaction to your trauma by recognising your distressing experiences. Don’t feel angry or guilty for being emotional or upset.
  • Avoid overuse of alcohol and/or drugs to cope, as these may make the problems worse.
  • Allow yourself to gradually confront what has happened, as this will enable you to come to terms with the trauma.
  • Do not try and avoid your feelings – share your experiences with those you feel comfortable with and trust, as this is helpful in dealing with the trauma.
  • Try and maintain your normal routine and structure, and allow yourself to rest when you are feeling tired.
  • Try and find time to practice relaxation such as progressive muscle relaxation or mindfulness, as this will allow your body to relax and readjust when anxious.
  • Express your feelings in different ways such as writing them down in a thought diary, as this may help with the healing process.
  • Let your loved ones know of your needs, as they can assist and support you when you are feeling tired or need to talk with someone.

Some people will recover from emotional trauma with the help and support of family or friends.

Others however, will develop more severe psychological conditions as a result of their trauma. These include dissociation, depression, substance abuse/addictions and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

What is PTSD?

PTSD is a clinical disorder that is extremely distressing and can lead to issues with being able to function, cope and maintain social relationships.

PTSD sufferers re-experience the trauma through flashbacks, nightmares or intrusive memories, hyperarousal of physical feelings, and numbing of emotive responses.

As PTSD rarely resolves on its own, you should make an appointment to see a psychologist if your symptoms are severe and distressing, or prolonged (ie they last more than 2 weeks).

Other cautionary signs may include: not being able to cope with the debilitating and distressing emotions; feeling numb; an increase of physical symptoms; ongoing disturbed sleep or nightmares; or having minimal support around you.

Treatment for trauma usually includes learning skills to manage the intrusive thoughts through interventions such as Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. A psychologist can also assist by educating you about the trauma, teaching you stress reduction techniques, and allowing you to confront your distressed thoughts and fearful situations in a safe environment.

Shokria Siddiqui

Author: Shokria Siddiqui, BSc.Psych, PGDipPsych, PGDipMH, MPsych, MAPS.

Shokria Siddiqui is a Brisbane Psychologist working with all ages, however she has a particular interest in children and adolescents. By implementing evidence-based therapies that have been scientifically tested, building rapport with her clients, and creating a safe therapeutic space, Shokria helps her clients and their families to better meet life’s challenges.

To make an appointment with Brisbane Psychologist Shokria Siddiqui, try Online Booking – Mt Gravatt or or Online Booking – Loganholme, or call M1 Psychology (Loganholme) on (07) 3067 9129 or Vision Psychology (Mt Gravatt) on (07) 3088 5422.