Understanding Racial Trauma

Understanding Racial Trauma

Understanding Racial Trauma

Over and over, research proves that racism leads to trauma for people of color. Therefore, it is essential to know what this trauma looks like and how we can help ourselves or our loved ones who experience racial trauma. Trauma counseling in Orlando can help you understand potential racial trauma origins, symptoms, and treatments for the problem.

Potential origins of racial trauma in the African American and Black Community

  • Historically: One way that racial trauma presents is through collective and historical trauma that affects a people, community, and population. Thus, potential historical origins include Slavery abuses, post-Reconstruction terrorism, and The Great Migration refugee-like experience. This trauma passes down through generations through cultural, societal, familial, and biological factors. Today's most discussed community-level traumas include racial profiling, inequity in the American prison/justice system, and dehumanization.
  • Contemporarily: Racial trauma also presents in current, personal traumatic experiences based on race, including racism or race-related trauma from events or crises witnessed or experienced by a person. Possible origins include an individual's personal experience with racial aggression, discrimination, and racism. In addition, intense exposure of witness to traumatic events will cause trauma, including media exposure like the high-profile killings of Philando Castille, Freddie Gray, and Trayvon Martin.

Racial trauma and stress symptoms

Race-based trauma and stress symptoms are similar to other types of stress and include:

  • Mental health issues: Hopelessness, anxiety, and depression
  • Symptoms of chronic stress like cardiovascular health problems.
  • Behavioral changes: Primarily escape tactics (substance abuse, sex, eating, etc.), procrastination, and avoidance
  • Physiological disturbance: Increased rumination, self-criticism, cognitive distortion, etc.
  • Emotional distress: Irritability, feelings of overwhelm, panic, depressed mood, anxiety, etc.
  • Decreased executive functioning: Inability to self-organize or concentrate and distraction
  • Physiological changes: Gastrointestinal issues, muscle tension, etc.

In addition to these basic symptoms of trauma-related stress, people suffering from racial trauma may also exhibit these symptoms:

  • Helplessness
  • Anger
  • Shock
  • Shame
  • Guilt
  • Existential hopelessness
  • Vigilance
  • Distrust

Help and treatment for racial trauma and stress

When you or a loved one experiences racial trauma, trauma counseling in Orlando can help, especially with a provider who has experience working with racial stress. Other healing tactics include:

  • Personal practices to regulate emotions and bodily function, like yoga, journaling, deep breathing, exercise, and meditation.
  • Learning and practicing flexibility in behavioral and cognitive stress responses
  • Giving context to your response through awareness that trauma responses are reactions to perceived threats
  • Looking for meaning in events, context, response, and outcome. This might mean engagement with community, spiritual, and social justice outlets.
  • Seeking and providing support for processing your traumatic experience

In addition, spiritual practices and communities may offer outlets to find meaning, share and validate experiences, process psychological and emotional responses in a group setting, and coordinate instrumental reactions to crises.

We share this information to help everyone better understand racial trauma and its origins, symptoms, and available treatment options. Contact us today if you need trauma counseling in Orlando. We care about your mental health and overall wellbeing, and we are qualified to help you find a healthier, more fulfilling way of life. Let us help you live better.

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(407) 592-8997

118 Pasadena Pl
Orlando, Florida 32803
Heather Oller

Heather Oller is a licensed Orlando therapist at Orlando Thrive Therapy, Coaching & Counseling who specializes in counseling Orlando couples, individuals, and families who are seeking changes in their lives. She has been a mental health professional for over 17 years and is a practicing Orlando counselor that specializes in conflict resolution for couples. You can contact her for an appointment or call 407-592-8997 for more information.