Post-Traumatic Growth: How to Start Healing

Navigating through the aftermath of trauma is undoubtedly challenging, yet many specialists affirm that it can pave the way for transformative journeys towards new beginnings.

You’ve probably come across PTSD, a mental health condition triggered by trauma. But have you heard about post-traumatic growth?

Despite trauma’s devastating effects, it can also catalyze positive change. In fact, it can foster resilience and strength.

So, how can you turn trauma into an opportunity for growth? Let’s delve into it.

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Characteristics of PTG | PTG during the pandemic | Trauma responses | Seeking Support | Personality Factors | Integration of Experience | PTG vs. Resilience | Potential for Growth | Strategies for Growth | Reflection | Community | Support | Seeking Help

Characteristics of post-traumatic growth

“Post-traumatic growth (PTG) occurs when individuals affected by PTSD find new meaning in their experiences, leading to profound changes in their lives,” explains Dr. Marianne Trent, a clinical psychologist.

Research suggests nearly 50% of trauma survivors undergo PTG post-event.

Areas of growth include personal strength, appreciation for life, spiritual change, and improved relationships, says Trent.

According to environmental psychologist Lee Chambers, PTG manifests in various ways, such as discovering latent talents, facing new challenges with confidence, and developing mindfulness and gratitude.

It often fosters a desire to help others, increased self-awareness, and greater compassion for others.

PTG and the pandemic

As we navigate the aftermath of the pandemic, post-traumatic growth is gaining attention.

A study published in the Journal of Psychiatry found that 88% of respondents reported positive effects from pandemic challenges like homeschooling and financial stress.

Many noted improvements in family bonds and a deeper appreciation for life. Some even experienced spiritual growth and enhanced mental well-being due to pandemic-related trauma.

Different responses to trauma

Post-traumatic growth raises a fundamental query: Why do some individuals thrive after trauma while others falter?

According to experts like Trent and Chambers, key factors include:

  • A robust support network
  • Personality traits such as extraversion and openness
  • The capacity to assimilate the traumatic event
  • Forming new belief systems post-trauma

Chambers emphasizes, “The ability to extract positives from trauma is influenced by various factors.”

Support

The strength of your support system is a significant factor. Studies indicate that individuals with robust networks of supportive family and friends, along with access to mental health resources, are more likely to rebound from trauma.

Personality

Psychology also factors in significantly. According to Chambers, two psychological traits associated with a higher likelihood of experiencing post-traumatic growth are openness to experience and extraversion.

“This is likely because openness enables the reconsideration of belief systems, and extroverts are more inclined to initiate a response and actively seek social connection. Positive personality traits such as optimism and future-focus can also play a part, enabling us to see the potential upside and capitalize on it.”

Integrating the experience

Trent emphasizes that post-traumatic growth occurs when individuals can integrate their traumatic experiences into their lives, leading to the development of new belief systems.

“Otherwise,” she adds, “individuals may remain in a traumatized state. In my specialized work with trauma therapy clients, it appears that those who struggle to assimilate their experiences are more likely to get stuck.”

PTG or resilience?

Trent highlights the importance of experiencing post-traumatic stress before undergoing post-traumatic growth.

To be classified as PTG, one must have first experienced PTSD symptoms,” she clarifies. “Without these symptoms, any growth would be considered resilience rather than growth specifically resulting from trauma.”

Can anyone grow from trauma?

Yes, both Trent and Chambers agree that stressful events can lead to a deeper appreciation for life. Seeking professional mental health services like EMDR, CFT, and TF-CBT is recommended. Trent emphasizes the life-changing impact of evidence-based trauma treatments, effective for various trauma types. Chambers warns against suppressing or ignoring suffering in pursuit of optimism, as it may hinder healthy expression of emotions and the potential for post-traumatic growth.

How to grow from trauma

If you’ve endured trauma, you can embark on a journey towards integration and post-traumatic growth. Take time to reflect on your experiences and emotions. Foster a sense of community by connecting with supportive individuals. Additionally, seek professional mental health support to navigate your healing journey effectively.

Reflect

To initiate the healing process, Chambers recommends journaling to process emotions effectively. Writing down our experiences helps us become more aware of our responses to life-altering events, fostering introspection and understanding. Through reflection, we can also nurture gratitude by appreciating the meaningful aspects of our lives. Despite challenges and losses, embracing resourcefulness can unveil the richness and abundance within our experiences.

Community

Chambers emphasizes the importance of community and trusted support systems in navigating difficult times.

“During the pandemic, communities rallied together, offering support and solidarity,” he notes. “Intentional connections with others have led to a greater sense of appreciation and belonging, enriching our lives and fostering resilience.”

Support

Trent stresses the significance of prioritizing mental health support and leaning on trusted individuals for assistance during challenging times.

When and how to seek help

Trent outlines common symptoms of trauma, including hypervigilance, intrusive thoughts, nightmares, flashbacks, increased substance use, and sleep disturbances. If experiencing these, she suggests speaking with a doctor or local mental health services, confiding in a trusted individual, journaling, and practicing distress tolerance techniques like box breathing. Additionally, learning stabilization techniques or seeking psychological therapy can offer valuable support.

Jump to section

Characteristics of PTG | PTG during the pandemic | Trauma responses | Seeking Support | Personality Factors | Integration of Experience | PTG vs. Resilience | Potential for Growth | Strategies for Growth | Reflection | Community | Support | Seeking Help