How to regain your mental health after a traumatic event

Accidents can happen at any time. (Rawpixel pic)

It is finally time to clear out the garage. You grab a couple of bin bags and set to work going through the mess.

After working through most of the stuff on the floor, organising them into various boxes, you move on to sorting the tools and sports equipment stored higher up.

You’re feeling a little tired, but decide to power on regardless, and climb up the ladder. You’re keen to get this finished.

In your tiredness, you forgot just how heavy the sports equipment is, buckling on the ladder as you try to bring them down.

The overwhelming weight makes you lose your footing and you crash to the floor, smacking your head and knocking yourself out in the process.

You wake up in hospital with your family around you and no recollection of how you got there. You feel strange, your head is throbbing but you thank your lucky stars that you’re still alive.

Types of trauma

One-third of all adults in England report experiencing at least one traumatic event like this in their lifetime. Whether it be a car accident, domestic abuse, a natural disaster or a serious illness, life doesn’t always run smoothly for many people.

However, it isn’t just the actual traumatic event itself you need to worry about. Often, the aftermath can be equally as harrowing and difficult to come to terms with, especially in terms of mental health ramifications.

What happens during a traumatic event

During a traumatic experience, your body responds in different ways depending on the exact circumstances. Your defence systems will become stimulated, creating a response to the level of stress you are feeling.

This ‘’fight or flight response’’, will make you behave differently in reaction to the traumatic situation you find yourself in.

Say somebody threatens you with a knife. In this situation, your body will almost subconsciously make a decision to either run from the threat or stay and tackle the situation.

Directly after the event, more emotional symptoms like shock and denial will kick in which will turn into feelings of sadness, anger or guilt.

It is the persistence of these feelings which transpire into particular mental health conditions.

Support is important to overcome a traumatic experience. (Rawpixel pic)

What mental health conditions can cause a traumatic experience

While it’s perfectly possible to put on a brave face and have all the support, dealing with the aftermath of a traumatic event is an incredibly personal thing to do.

Failing to overcome these feelings can lead to a range of serious and potentially life-threatening mental conditions:

Anxiety. Traumatic events can leave you feeling anxious about leaving the house and facing the outside world. It can cause you excessive worry and panic over decisions, significantly knocking your levels of self-confidence and self-esteem.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD is typically associated with the military; due to the traumatic events they experience while at war.

Common symptoms involve re-experiencing trauma through flashbacks, nightmares or places associated with the event. Sleep disturbances, anxiety, alcohol misuse and depression are all commonly brought on.

Depression. Feeling depressed is so much more than simply being a little down or sad. Depression is a condition where you experience an intense feeling of anxiety, hopelessness, helplessness, and fail to see the positives in anything.

These feelings remain over a long period of time and, after being left to fester, can result in physical self-harm and even suicide.

How these conditions can be overcome

Overcoming a mental health condition is an entirely personal experience. Time ultimately will be the best healer, but it’s what you do with that time that will shape how quickly the issue is overcome.

Having a network of support is absolutely imperative. You should not be left to feel alone with your emotions as you need an outlet to talk through what you’re experiencing.

While it can be difficult opening up and recounting the event, it is very important to do so. Often, trust becomes degraded following ordeals such as these, so the best way to build trust back up is by having a network of supportive friends and family around you.

Similarly, it’s important that you look after yourself. Your health and well-being can take a substantial hit in the aftermath of trauma, but exercising regularly and eating healthily can make a big impact on your mental health.

Avoid depressant substances like drugs and alcohol as these will only exacerbate the issue.

Staying healthy and seeking support are the two most important things you can do. Always remember, you don’t have to suffer in silence – help is available out there when you need it most.

Dennis Relojo-Howell is the founder of Psychreg and host of The DRH Show. You can connect with him on Twitter @drelojo_howell