Understanding Trauma & Its Ripple Effect

Dec 30, 2021 by Jenna Kamholz, LPCC

By: Jenna Kamholz, LPCC

Trauma. Trauma-informed care. You may have heard some of these “buzz words,” but it is important to really understand what is trauma and how does it impact clinical care and everyday life? 

Let’s start from the beginning. For many people with trauma, it starts in childhood, but trauma is an individualized experience and can be different from person to person and happen anytime in your life. What is traumatic to one person is not necessarily the same for the next. There are people who do not think of their experiences as traumatic due to the lack of clarity around what trauma actually means.

Trauma is a word used to help start the process of healing and understand that our brain has been impacted by the events in our lives. So, what is trauma-informed care? Trauma-informed care is understanding that people have experiences in their lives that change how they respond and experience their life as a direct result of the trauma. It is the acknowledgment that what happened to you impacts every aspect of your life. Whether it was the person in the gas station yelling at you, the child in your classroom not listening or feeling uncomfortable asking for help.  

People who have experienced trauma respond in different ways. Signs and symptoms include, but are not limited to: ‘spacing out’ or dissociation, difficulty controlling one’s body, easy to startle, have difficulty sleeping and concentrating, and having a hard time with relationships. As you can see, trauma symptoms look a lot like other diagnoses that people hear every day (e.g. Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder). Impacts of trauma affect how your brain thinks, body functions, how a person experiences relationships and how you move through your life. An ever-present sense of fear and hypervigilance can look like difficulty trusting in relationships, disengagement in social settings, difficulty learning in the classroom and having a startled response to an otherwise normal door shutting. To someone who has not experienced trauma, these symptoms may come off as rude or overdramatic, but to those who have, these symptoms could mean survival. 

While it is easy to think that trauma impacts individual people, the reality is that trauma is an invisible force that touches all of us. I like to think of trauma as a metaphor from my time growing up in Spicer, MN, skipping rocks at the lake. If you throw a rock in the lake, it doesn’t just sink, it sends out a ripple effect and it touches every shore of the lake. It impacts the fish, weeds, sand, and rocks. In this same way, trauma ripples through our society. The student having a hard time sitting still at their desk, or impulsively blurting out while you are reading a story, might have a hard time controlling their body. The colleague across the hall that won’t say good morning or look you in the eye, may have a hard time with feeling comfortable around people. If we come from an understanding that everyone has been impacted by trauma, whether directly or indirectly, we can be less judgmental, not take things as personally and help each other start to heal. 

If you or someone you know have experienced trauma, you are not alone. Reaching out to a trusted person, contacting a therapist, or talking with your doctor are all important steps, but also the hardest. Know that you are heard and when you are ready, people are here to listen and support you, and you matter. At PrairieCare, we offer no-cost mental health screenings for anyone looking for support. Call us today at 952-826-8475 to get started.

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