Trauma is an emotional response to an event that caused extreme stress, feelings of helplessness, horror, and/or a serious injury or threat of a serious injury. Things like accidents, abuse, sexual assault, and natural disasters can all lead to trauma, as can other experiences that cause intense emotional distress. People who have experienced trauma often feel the effects months and years after the initial incident. You may experience symptoms such as emotional outbursts of anger or sadness, flashbacks, nightmares, anxiety attacks, depression, and even physical symptoms, like headaches or body pain. Experiences of trauma can lead to mental health conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). About seven percent of adults have experienced PTSD at some point in their lives.
Because trauma is so serious, the best way to help deal with the difficult feelings you may be experiencing is to seek help from a licensed mental health counselor who is trained in dealing with trauma. Relying on friends, family, and self-care strategies can all be helpful, but in the long term, it’s unlikely those would be enough to help you heal the underlying trauma.
Research has found that specialized therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) have proven successful in helping people deal with trauma and PTSD. I encourage you to talk to your university counselor and have them refer you to a therapist if there is not someone at the school who is trained in trauma-informed therapy. You can also use the American Psychological Association psychologist locator to find a therapist in your area.
You can learn more about trauma and find helpful resources from the Sidran Institute for traumatic stress education and advocacy.