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4 Ways to Recognize if You Have Trauma

4 Ways to Recognize if You Have Trauma

People who have experienced trauma often don’t realize it. It is not uncommon for them to have little or no awareness of how trauma is impacting their lives. In the world of psychology, researchers distinguish between “big T” and “little t” trauma.

While “Big T” trauma is life-threatening events, such as war, sexual assault, or major car accidents, “little t” trauma can be a bit more sneaky. “Little t” traumas lack specificity and are not associated with an event or location. For example, chronic illness, poverty, or lack of safety would be “little t” traumas. Other examples include continuous stresses, such as struggles in education, living, or employment environments. 

Here are 4 Ways to Recognize Trauma and Integrate Self-Care:

  • Out of Body/Disconnected Experience  Have you ever driven your car on auto-pilot? Of course, we all have. But if you find that you feel disconnected from your body in everyday experiences, you can practice techniques like yoga and meditation to return to the present.
  • Automatic or Involuntary Patterns Do you find yourself repeating a behavior or pattern in your relationships or friendships and don’t know why? “Tapping,” associated with Emotional Freedom Techniques, is excellent for this. Take the four fingers of your hand and simply tap the top of your head. The pressure points there help relieve anxiety.
  • Hyper-vigilance Do you feel on edge, startled, or even angry at times? Trauma can create increased arousal. Diaphragm breathing helps calm your nervous system.
  • Avoidance or Self-Destructive Behavior  Do you avoid certain situations because they are uncomfortable? Or do you intentionally put yourself in risky ones? These can be sneaky signs of trauma. Visualizing or journaling about your future can help you change this behavior. 

Trauma is any event or continuous circumstance that the body and mind perceive as overwhelming and isolating. When we take the time to process and move through trauma productively, we have the ability to formed by our suffering in positive, transformative ways. Rather than emerging healed, we have the potential to come away altogether differently: more empathetic, attuned, and connected to the present moment.


Alexandra Catrickes, PhD is a relationship and trauma coach. Having years of experience with overcoming stress and trauma, she has done extensive research and writing about trauma, family systems, and romantic relationships while pursuing her PhD at Yale University. Alexandra uses Emotional Freedom Techniques, a powerful mind-body tool that regulates distress and emotions. Clients focus briefly on how past events still impact their lives in order to empower themselves to experience optimal romantic relationships in the present. Reach her at alexandra.catrickes@yale.edu