Traumatic events can have far-reaching effects for a very long time.

The intense feelings of fear and loss of control can lead many to develop anxiety. This anxiety in turn can develop into anxiety disorders. Trauma and anxiety disorders often go hand in hand as feelings of fear and anxiety become overwhelming. These overwhelming feelings are usually accompanied by physical symptoms and changes in behavior. These symptoms sometimes move beyond “normal” feelings of anxiety and into an anxiety disorder when they begin to interfere with a person’s life (Casa Palmera).
We can think of a traumatized person’s behaviors as icebergs in a way. Icebergs are deceiving because what you see on the surface is usually only a small fraction of what lies below. Observing the behavior of a traumatized person is sometimes like looking at the tip of an iceberg. If you look past the anxious behaviors, you find layers of emotions that have not been dealt with that are now affecting the person.
Behaviors we may see exposed are things like anger, difficulty sleeping, inability to focus, defiance, avoidance, chandeliering, and more. We just see a difficult person. However, if we are able to look underneath the behaviors, we may find that the person is dealing with some really raw emotions. They may be feeling embarrassed, hurt, helpless, insecure, overwhelmed, depressed, and lonely, grieving, and the list goes on and on.
Anxiety can kind of be like the chicken or egg – which came first? You are feeling anxious and cannot go to sleep because of all the thoughts circling in your mind. You know you need to go to sleep but then again, you can’t go to sleep because you feel anxious you may oversleep past the alarm. The symptoms sometimes lead from one to another. When you are chronically worried and don’t feel you have the skills to manage the anxiety, you begin to feel helpless. Then the helpless feeling leads you to become frustrated, which then leads to anger and irritability.
Have you ever thought you were handling your anxiety and stress well only to find yourself exploding out of nowhere? This is called chandeliering. Brené Brown says that chandeliering is when a seemingly calm person suddenly flies off the handle for no reason. In reality, they have pushed their pain aside for so long that a seemingly innocent comment or event suddenly sends them straight through the chandelier.
As humans, we tend to avoid things that we find unpleasant or uncomfortable. Usually, we do this in one of two ways. We either do or not do. To avoid getting sick, we may wash our hands repeatedly and use sanitizer and avoid anyone who coughs. If you are trying to avoid something that makes you uncomfortable, you may not attend a meeting or school event. Or maybe you don’t reach out for help after a traumatic event. The problem with avoidance is that it usually snowballs. You spend so much time and energy avoiding facing the feelings and in the end, it makes the anxiety greater.
If you or a loved one has experienced trauma from domestic violence or sexual assault, Crisis Services of North Alabama is a safe place for you. We offer services free of charge to Jackson County residents. You may reach our local office at 256.574.5826 for an appointment. You may also call our 24 hour HELPline at 256.716.1000 to talk with someone anytime day or night.

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