What is Trauma?

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Video by Kim Mathos and Angie Gallo

Trauma is defined as any situation that shatters your sense of security or makes you feel unsafe or vulnerable.

A person is most likely to have emotional suffering from the event if it was not expected or the person felt unprepared or powerless.

Things that cause people to be traumatized can be one-time events like being in the hospital without communication access or being in an accident or being sexually or physically abused as a child. Or they can be ongoing bad things as an adult like living with an alcoholic or abusive husband.

Research does indicate that Deaf and Hard of hearing people are often more likely to experience trauma for a variety of different reasons and to experience barriers to good care and to learning more about the after effects of trauma.

Some people become really depressed after they have experienced these bad events. Other people might become more nervous or begin to drink more alcohol or be filled with some intense emotion like anger, guilt or shame. Some people rebound from this aftermath of feelings quickly and other people are changed forever. For example some people that are traumatized as a child might never feel totally safe again.

Exposure to trauma changes chemicals within your brain that can cause these feelings of panic, bad memories and pervasive fear. Exposure to trauma can affect both your physical and your emotional health too.

People who have had trauma happen to them might have a higher heart rate, can be more easily startled, have new headaches and muscle pains, nightmares, changes in eating and sleep patterns and even such things as new stomach ulcers and hypertension.

People who have experienced traumatic events can have flashbacks or powerful re-experiencing type of feelings. Nightmares, or intrusive memories can happen too when people are reminded of their bad experience.

This “re-experiencing” can happen even years after the initial trauma occurred – Stories about domestic violence on the news, or about the sexual abuse of a neighbor child might rekindle feelings of fear, sickness and recurrent unpleasant memories that feel beyond your control.
Be tolerant of your nervous system and your body rhythm. Your body is trying to keep you safe. Try to avoid situations or news stories which rekindle your feelings of not being safe. Spend time with loved ones in favorite activities or outside in nature, and avoid alcohol.
If you feel that you may be experiencing negative symptoms of trauma you can download the following screening test.

What can you do if some trauma has happened to you and you feel that it is affecting your life in a negative way?

It is important to seek counseling or medication management services so that these new feelings do not take hold of your life or begin to affect your desire to be with others or carry on with life. Medication or therapy even on a short term basis can have a major positive impact on keeping your anxiety in control and to move forward with your life.

If you have been exposed to a traumatic event and it is negatively affecting your life, it is often a good idea to join a support group with others who may have had similar traumas. Call ahead to ask if group leaders are willing to make accommodations for your deafness or hearing loss. The provider has many options to be able to work out interpreting needs.

Where can you turn for help? Therapists, psychiatrists and family doctors in our area are here to help. See the local directory of service providers who can treat this condition. You can find this directory here.

In an interesting review of issues related specifically to the Deaf community please read the following links:


National resource website

Thank you and be well!

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