The Effects of Trauma

You may have heard someone say that they found something “traumatic” in the past – but did you know that trauma can be experienced in different ways by different people? Trauma is something that can result from events or life situations that are physically or emotionally harmful. The same event or circumstance may be experienced as traumatic by one person and not by another. A person’s life experiences, identity, and cultural background are all things that can affect how they experience trauma. Experiencing trauma is common and there are many different types of trauma, which can affect many different parts of people’s life. Trauma can have negative effects on things like your health, well-being, and life opportunities. Some negative effects of trauma occur immediately while others may occur later on. Similarly, some effects may be short term, while others may last a longer time. Sometimes, as a result of trauma, people experience everyday activities as life threatening events.

Trauma might also impact a person’s sleep or eating. You may have difficulties falling asleep or staying asleep, or oversleep, and it can affect appetite—you may notice a loss of appetite or increased appetite. Experiencing trauma can also lead to using harmful coping strategies, including disordered eating such as restricting food, bingeing, or purging. To combat this, try to focus on making sure that you are eating 3 meals and 2-3 snacks throughout the day and drinking fluids. It can be helpful to have ready-to-eat or easy-to-prepare meals and snacks on hand, or to ask a family member or friend for help preparing food.

Trauma can also affect the way people show up, such as being unengaged or disconnected, having a difficult time concentrating, feeling irritable or having mood swings, having people-pleasing tendencies, missing appointments, or experiencing guilt or self-blame. All of these may come into play in relationships with friends and family and even when working with health care providers, such as a therapist or dietitian.

If you are experiencing or have experienced trauma, talk to a trusted adult, such as a health care provider, teacher, or guidance counselor. Working with a therapist and a dietitian may be helpful.

-Dietitian Julia