Have you spent time helping a loved one who struggles with substance abuse or mental health difficulties? If so, you may be susceptible to developing a condition known as secondary trauma. Though many people think of trauma as a condition that only evolves through first-hand experience, that isn’t always the case.
Rather, millions of individuals suffer from trauma that has little to do with their own life experiences and far more to do with the life experiences of those they love. Learn more about what secondary trauma is, symptoms of the condition, and how a trauma therapy program can help.
What Is Secondary Trauma?
Secondary trauma, also referred to as secondary traumatic stress or vicarious trauma, is a condition that develops from assisting or desiring to assist a suffering or traumatized individual. When a person becomes emotionally invested in helping a traumatized loved one, they’re often at risk for experiencing mental, emotional, and physical exhaustion.
These feelings are often especially present when people in helping positions listen as individuals recount traumatic personal events. Upon witnessing a person’s emotional and physical reaction to their own traumatic experiences, a person in a helping position may begin to feel the effects of that trauma. This is true even when the helper has no personal attachment to those traumatic events.
The individual in the helping position often develops compounding emotional fatigue, combined with an ongoing desire to help their suffering loved one. Over time, these emotional changes can result in undesirable alterations in psychological functioning.
Symptoms of Secondary Trauma
If you’ve spent time with an individual who struggles with traumatic life experiences, it’s important to understand the state of your own emotional and mental health. Though the development of secondary trauma is quite common, many people aren’t aware that the condition affects them. This is why recognizing the signs of secondary trauma is so important for maintaining your overall psychological and physical health.
If you think you may be struggling with vicarious trauma, be sure to watch for the following signs:
- Chronic fatigue or emotional exhaustion
- Intrusive thoughts or addictions
- Difficulty concentrating and dissociation
- Ongoing sadness or anger
- Feeling as though you can never do enough to help
- Ongoing fearfulness or shame
- Physical illness
If you experience any of the above symptoms on an ongoing basis, for your own well-being, it’s critical that you speak with someone you trust. While you can certainly talk with a trusted friend or family member about your concerns, you may also want to consider entering a professional trauma therapy program. Through such a mental health treatment program, mental health professionals can guide you on the best ways to cope with secondary trauma, as well as listen to your concerns in a safe, supportive, and private setting.
Secondary Trauma Treatment Options at Westwind Recovery®
Vicarious trauma can have far-reaching effects on your overall well-being, from feelings of guilt and fear to anger, emotional numbing, and, in serious cases, addiction. This is why seeking out professional help for the condition is so important.
At Westwind Recovery®, we deeply understand the impact that helping a struggling loved one can have on your psychological and physical health. That’s why we offer a variety of programs designed to guide you back to an optimal state of emotional, mental, and physical well-being. Our offerings include:
- Family therapy program
- Medication-assisted treatment programs
- Adventure therapy program
- Virtual reality meditation therapy
- Art and music therapy programs
Reach Out to Westwind Recovery® Today
If you believe vicarious trauma is impacting your mental, emotional, and physical well-being, please know that you never have to work through the condition alone. At Westwind Recovery®, we specialize in mental health treatment and support and deeply understand the far-reaching effects that trauma can have. It’s our goal to guide you back to a state of overall well-being, so if you need help, please don’t hesitate to contact our team.