Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today

Sarah Fader

Why Trauma Survivors Can't Just "Get Over It"

Healing from trauma takes time.

Trauma is often misunderstood by those who haven't survived it. Even the most well-meaning loved ones of trauma survivors can be insensitive to their needs. They want the best for the survivor, but they might pressure them to "get over it" or "just move on." Many people remember experiencing some kind of trauma in their lives.

Some traumatic experiences stand out more than others. A soldier who engaged in combat may have experienced trauma on the battlefield. Being in a war zone exposes people to many things that can be imprinted in memory. Being personally injured with a bullet or another weapon or seeing fellow soldiers die in battle carries exposure to circumstances that often fall under the heading of "trauma."

There are many ways to treat trauma and there are multiple forms of trauma therapy. Not all trauma is treated the same. The type of trauma therapy one undergoes depends on the sort of trauma endured. A popular form of therapy for trauma survivors is EMDR, which stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. EMDR helps trauma survivors to heal from their symptoms of emotional distress. The fear they are feeling is due to their traumatic life experiences. EMDR works rapidly for survivors in contrast to psychodynamic therapy. It directly addresses the physical symptoms associated with the traumatic experience.

EMDR therapy proves that minds are able to heal from severe traumatic experiences, just as bodies can be repaired after physical trauma such as a car accident.

Unsplash 2018
Source: Unsplash 2018

In addition to EMDR, trauma survivors can benefit from a form of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) that is tailored to trauma survivors. This form of therapy, called TFCBT (trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy) involves short-term treatment (8-12 weeks), which is much like CBT except that it specifically addresses the behaviors that have developed as a result of the traumatic events.

There are many traumatic experiences that life exposes people to. Abuse (whether it's physical, sexual, emotional or verbal) can undoubtedly result in trauma. People who leave an abusive relationship might not even be aware of being trauma survivors. They might be under the misconception that now they're out of the relationship, they are free and can finally be happy. But leaving an abuser often leaves emotional scars that need tending to. The wounds that are ignored may become re-activated when the survivor enters into a new relationship.

If you are a trauma survivor, you don't have to justify or explain your path to wellness to your family or friends. If they become impatient with your healing journey, that is not your fault. You are doing the best that you can to get through and heal from what happened to you. You do not have to rationalize your choices to anyone. You are free to take as much time as you need to face what happened to you, to realize that it wasn't your fault, and to begin to release the pain in a healthy way.

Trauma can be overwhelming, painful, and scary. But it doesn't have to ruin your life. You have the right to be happy. That happiness might take time to achieve, but it will happen. Remember, there is no right way to heal. You own what happened to you, and you have the right to address your pain in a way that makes sense to you. Take healing one step at a time and be patient with yourself. You will get there.

About the Author

Sarah Fader is a mental illness advocate and mother of two living with panic disorder in New York City.