A lot of times, as humans, we have strange behaviors that might seem odd to us and others, without looking deeper. But, when you begin to dig deeper, another picture unfolds and one that shows the roots beyond the behaviors.
For a long time in my life, I thought I was inherently flawed. I was weird and an outcast in many ways. As I grew older, I began to notice that many of my quirks and odd behaviors seemed like signs of anxiety. However, when I looked even deeper beyond that, I realized that my anxiety was rooted in trauma.
According to Psychology Today, “the ‘trauma brain’ wants to avoid any experience that reminds us of a time when we were unable to escape from discomfort.” So, while certain behaviors may appear anxious-driven, it’s far more likely they are trauma responses if you have endured harsh traumas in your past.
1. Pulling away when people get too close. (emotionally)
Oftentimes, when trauma occurs, it can cause the person affected to socially withdraw. While this can also happen physically (see below) it frequently manifests on an emotional level.
2. Refusing to be vulnerable with others.
Those who have been in a situation where their vulnerabilities were used as a weapon against them will end up forming a trauma response. Most often, this trauma response is forming a barrier between them and others, in which the vast majority of interactions they have with others are surface level.
3. Not trusting anyone.
Once you have been traumatized, you may fear everyone else. A common thought is “I can’t trust anyone.” And while it makes sense to be apprehensive about people – trust is a necessary component of friendships and other relationships. Without trust, it can be hard to form connections with others.
Overindulging in the form of eating too much, drinking too much, shopping too much, or engaging in any activity over moderation can be a self-soothing mechanism. Another aspect of this is avoiding food or substances, which is a form of control during times that feel chaotic or beyond control.
5. Avoiding social events altogether.
Some victims of trauma may avoid people and social gatherings altogether. For them, people (especially people they do not know) can be scary and possibly even a source of uncontrollable angst.
6. Moving away from people when they get too close. (physically)
As I mentioned above, trauma survivors tend to build emotional walls. However, they physically distance themselves from others as well. For example, if you’ve ever gone in for a hug with someone and had them pull back, it’s more likely that this was a trauma response than it was that they don’t like you.
7. Constantly apologizing.
People who have endured trauma constantly apologize. And if you say something about it, they will probably apologize for apologizing. Somewhere down the line, they have been made to feel like everything is their fault.
8. Being easily startled.
Trauma survivors are easily startled. Sudden movements, noises, and stimulation can cause them to jolt from fear.
9. Being defensive.
A lot of times, trauma survivors may misunderstand what is being said to them, or even perceive constructive criticism as a verbal assault. In turn, they may become defensive needlessly out of habit.
10. Having a difficult time with situations beyond your control.
As a coping mechanism, survivors of trauma may feel that if they can completely control their environment, they can avoid further trauma. In reality- trying to control every aspect of your life will only deeper your anxiety, not alleviate it.
To thwart further trauma, survivors may overanalyze every situation, looking for the next bad situation on the horizon. Due to this, they may create catastrophes where there are none. An example of this is an anxious girlfriend who texts her boyfriend. When he doesn’t respond, she gets in her head. “He must be leaving me. What am I going to do? I can’t bear to be hurt again.” After a few minutes go by, she has decided he is leaving her and blocks him after sending a message saying goodbye.
12. Not answering the phone.
Trauma survivors can easily be overwhelmed with the idea of social interactions. Due to this, they are far more likely to control any aspect of social interaction that they can. In turn, they are likely to avoid calls, texts, etc.