Bloomington / Normal, IL

Working with the community... for a healthier community.

Living With Trauma


By Jenn Bovee, LCSW, CRADC, CCHt, The Mental Wellness Center

When most people hear the word “trauma,” they think of some horrible violent crime, or a natural disaster, or soldiers in war. However, traumatic experiences are actually events that many people have endured. The best definition of a trauma is, “anything that exceeds your current coping skills.” Using this definition of trauma changes people’s perceptions of what trauma is and widens our understanding of how it affects a person’s wellbeing.

It begins to make sense why some people can effectively manage challenging life events, while for others, the same type of event has a deeper and more significant impact. It’s not because some people are too sensitive or not strong enough. It’s because the trauma changes the way their brains and bodies respond to stimuli. For example, divorce is something that many people experience. While it is difficult for anyone, some people are able to handle it, while others are devastated and are not able to develop healthy strategies for coming to terms with the emotional pain. When an experience like a break-up exceeds a person’s coping skills, then it typically turns into trauma, even if the experience doesn’t appear to be that awful to others. Something like rape or sexual assault would most certainly be beyond the coping skills of most people and is therefore almost always a traumatic event.

There are many causes for traumatic experiences. The following are the ones that we see the most:

Commonly seen traumatic experiences

  • Relationship breakups   
  • Physical health issues
  • Natural disasters   
  • Vehicle accidents
  • Sports injuries   
  • Peer pressure/ bullying
  • Money stress   
  • Assault/abuse
  • Sexual assault/ sexual abuse/ rape
  • Experiencing or exposure to violence

Because traumas are stored in the central nervous system, and people are not able to make sense of their emotions, the traumatic event begins to severely impact the rest of a person’s life. They may ignore their feelings or try to manage the pain with alcohol, drugs, or behaviors such as restrictive eating or gambling. There are some common signs and symptoms of experiencing trauma. If you are reading this and wondering if an event in your life was beyond your coping skills, please keep in mind that you do not need to have all of these symptoms — even just one may be the result of trauma.

Mood symptoms

  • Depression   
  • Anxiety   
  • Anger    
  • Irritability   
  • Mood swings   
  • Guilt
  • Shame   
  • Self-blame   
  • Sadness

Behavioral symptoms

  • Nightmares   
  • Sleep issues   
  • Fatigue    
  • Difficulty Concentrating   
  • Isolation
  • Self-destructive behavior    
  • Increased startle response
  • Avoiding certain people, places, or activities

Physical symptoms

  • Sleep issues   
  • Increased heart rate   
  • Nightmares
  • Fatigue   
  • Muscle tension   
  • Headaches    
  • Nausea and vomiting   
  • Aches and pain
  • Increased startle response

Physiological symptoms

  • Emotional detachment   
  • Emotional numbness   
  • Insecurities    
  • Confusion   
  • Difficulty concentrating   
  • Dissociation
  • Repressed memories   
  • Increase in fear   
  • Flashbacks    
  • Low self-esteem / low self-worth           
  • Struggle to recall memories

Traumas can occur on a variety of levels. The symptoms of unresolved trauma do not just go away. If the trauma is not confronted, faced, and processed, then the symptoms will continue. We urge you to seek out the help of a professional who is experienced in dealing with trauma.

For help with any mental health issue, you may contact The Mental Wellness Center at 309-807-5077 or e-mail

Their office is located at 202 N. Prospect , Suite 205 in Bloomington. They are invested in empowering you to return to — or achieve, possibly for the first time ever — a state of complete mental wellness.