6 Behaviors ‘High-Functioning’ Trauma Survivors Will Understand Deeply

High-functioning trauma survivors can be successful overachievers.

Thought Catalog

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Jean-Daniel Francoeur

By Shahida Arabi

As a researcher specializing in trauma, I often hear myths about how trauma can affect people and present itself. Here are six behaviors “high-functioning” trauma survivors will understand deeply:

Being calm isn’t a sign that the trauma never happened. Many times, it is a sign that the trauma was so severe the person had to dissociate to survive. It can also be a sign of resilience and desensitization after enduring too many traumas.

Complex trauma survivors and trauma survivors in general can dissociate during and after the traumatic experience. Their nervous system goes into survival mode and internal resources are used to survive the traumatic event rather than process or heal from it. As a result, they may feel detached from their own bodies or environment. Their brain has essentially tried to protect them from the full horror and impact of the traumatic event. For complex trauma survivors, this dissociation can be a way of life as the traumas they’ve endured tend to be ongoing and persistent. Emotional numbness and the diminished capacity to experience positive emotion are common. This is why people often remark in surprise when it comes to seemingly “calm” trauma survivors who may be in a state of shock or seem centered and in control. Trauma survivors can build up the psychological resilience akin to a sumo wrestler when it comes to life’s harshest adversity. They can build resources, coping strategies, and learn strategies that help them become resilient to traumas over time. They can also become desensitized to chaos, especially if their nervous system was dysregulated by trauma early in life. However, healing often challenges survivors to re-sensitize themselves to some level of pain so they do not have to continue to tolerate injustices.

High-functioning trauma survivors can be successful overachievers. That doesn’t mean they don’t tackle internal…

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