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It is often said that therapy or meeting a psychologist allows one to overcome trauma and let go of hidden pains. It is not clear to me exactly what the process of therapy entails—how would one know for themselves that they overcome their trauma? How would the therapist know?

There is another side to this as well, what would it mean for a person to be psychologically troubled? And, what would it mean for a person to be psychologically cured?

Due to the inherently subjective nature of reality, I can not imagine that one could argue their perception is of any greater veracity than the other's perception. This last point I know to be a topic of philosophical debate, but I think it is important for one to contemplate the issue from all angles.

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It is often said that therapy or meeting a psychologist allows one to overcome trauma and let go of hidden pains...what would mean for a person to be psychologically troubled?

Trauma is an emotional response to a terrible event like an accident, physical assault or natural disaster (APA, 2013).

Repeated childhood abuse, for example, can be just as traumatic as one single incident of sexual assault. Trauma affects different people in different ways (Mind, n.d.; Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2014).

Immediately after the event, shock and denial are typical. Longer term reactions include unpredictable emotions, flashbacks (NHS, n.d.), strained relationships and even physical symptoms like headaches or nausea (Very Well Mind, 2020).

While these feelings are normal, some people have difficulty moving on with their lives. Psychotherapists and Psychologists can help these people process their memories in a safe environment, and find constructive ways of managing their emotions.

how would one know for themselves that they overcome their trauma? How would the therapist know?

Those who have overcome their trauma can move on with their lives comfortably. They are no longer anxious and they are free of the severe emotional effects of the past events which caused the psychological issue(s).

They will never forget the past events. At the end of the day, they happened and nobody can change that. But, those affected by trauma who have gone through effective therapy can remember the past events without being so affected by them.

References

APA (2013). Recovering emotionally from disaster https://www.apa.org/topics/disasters-response/recovering

Mind (n.d.). Trauma https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/trauma/effects-of-trauma/

NHS (n.d.). Overview - Post-traumatic stress disorder https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/conditions/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd/overview/

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (2014). Chapter 3: Understanding the Impact of Trauma. In: Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 57. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK207191/

Very Well Mind (2020). An Overview of Psychosomatic Illness: How Your Stress and Depression Can Really Make You Sick https://www.verywellmind.com/depression-can-be-a-real-pain-1065455

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  • $\begingroup$ Could you expand the definition of trauma a little? Specifically, what about series of terrible events (say, repeated childhood abuse) as opposed to a single event (say, a single incident of sexual assault). And how do these two differ with regard to physiological changes in the brain/rest of the nervous system? For example, the MRI of the same person before depression, after years of chronic depression, and yet again after more years of treatment (even non-pharmaceutical treatment) can have clearly visible differences. What about single traumatic event vs. series of traumatic events? $\endgroup$
    – Sixtyfive
    Aug 31 at 14:00
  • $\begingroup$ @Sixtyfive repeated childhood abuse can be just as traumatic as one single incident of sexual assault. Trauma affects different people in different ways. mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/… (see also: ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK207191). $\endgroup$ Aug 31 at 14:07
  • $\begingroup$ Of course, Chris! Let me try to clarify: is it possible, through medical imaging, to tell apart single-event traumata from multiple-event traumata irrespective of the patients' subjective experiences? $\endgroup$
    – Sixtyfive
    Aug 31 at 14:16
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    $\begingroup$ @Sixtyfive That would be a very interesting separate question you could ask. I don't know the answer to that at the moment and I certainly would vote it up. It stands to reason as I seem to remember seeing something to the effect that you can see differences in MRI scans between short term sufferers of depression compared to long term sufferers. $\endgroup$ Aug 31 at 14:20
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    $\begingroup$ Yes, because of how visible the differences in MRI scans are with regard to depression, I'm wondering about trauma. Fair enough, though, that would indeed be a question of its own. I'll try to do some digging on the weekend and see if I can come up with one. $\endgroup$
    – Sixtyfive
    Aug 31 at 21:00

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