Trauma denial is a way to put distance between you and an overwhelming experience.

It can be one of the many ways your brain tries to adapt, and mitigate a reality collapse, or a system overload, which can often happen after a traumatic event. As you might imagine, denial can be enormously useful. Trauma denial may be helpful in the short term. It allows the trauma survivor to stand up and get back on their feet. Yet, just like a trusty old pair of shoes, the comforts we learn to rely on may start to fall apart, if given enough time.

Ongoing trauma denial causes more suffering than there needs to be. Although trauma survivors may learn how to suppress this unpleasant experience from their past, their body and mind will continue to carry it until the trauma is confronted. Addressing your trauma symptoms isn’t easy, but it can be rewarding. It can help you grow and integrate the parts of your past, so you feel more solid, self-actualized, and whole.


Trauma is an emotional response to experiencing, or witnessing, a distressing event or series of events, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA).

Some experiences linked to trauma include:

  • accidents
  • childhood abuse
  • domestic violence
  • loss of a loved one
  • natural disaster
  • sexual assault
  • torture
  • war

What are certain mental health conditions may develop after a traumatic experience:

  • anxiety
  • PTSD or complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD)
  • depression
  • personality disorders
  • schizophrenia
  • substance abuse disorder

Denial as a defense mechanism!

Denial is a defense mechanism, aka, an efficient mental process that acts as a protective shield and helps you cope. It can help you minimize the impact an event has had on your life. Trauma denial often occurs when the reality of the trauma is so great that it is psychologically safer to bury, deny, suppress, or avoid what happened than to accept that the trauma ever occurred in the first place. The psychological function of denial is to push aside overwhelming information to buy you some time and give you room to breathe after a traumatic experience. This may be a conscious or unconscious process. Denial is not the only psychological process that may happen after the traumatic event, though. You could also experience:

  • dissociation
  • emotional numbness
  • anosognosia
  • emotional blunting

Denial versus emotional avoidance!

Denial and emotional avoidance both create distance from a traumatic experience, but they’re slightly different: Denial distorts facts and events by ignoring the presence of the elephant in the room, so to speak. There is no admission of a problem. Avoidance, on the other hand, can be an attempt to refrain from feeling painful emotions by withdrawing or dissociating from specific experiences. It could also involve avoidance of situations or interactions that may become emotional in any way. For example, denial would be saying, believing, and acting like the traumatic experience didn’t affect you. Emotional avoidance, on the other hand, could be using alcohol to prevent thinking about the event or feeling detached from friends and family in general.

Denial in unresolved trauma!

There may be many benefits of denial, which could help explain why people develop this defense mechanism for unresolved trauma.

Denial can help you:

  • avoid pain.
  • get on with your life.
  • maintain an illusion of control.
  • remain loyal to someone who hurts you.
  • stick out a tough situation until you can safely get away.
  • protect your self-esteem.

Research has found that those who deny or minimize their childhood trauma, have a positivity bias that can protect against other mental health conditions in the future, like depression. And for those who’ve picked up on the fact that trauma may be more difficult to heal without the help of professional support, avoidance can provide yet another respite: a reason to steer clear of a therapist’s office. Psychologically, it can help people avoid stigmas that come along with diagnoses such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The problem with denying it is that until you acknowledge and recognize trauma for what it is, you deny your own experience. The trauma denial ultimately creates a barrier to the ability to heal from it.

Professional support?

While it may be intimidating to think about reaching out for help, trauma-informed therapists are trained to help you process and integrate trauma in a way that is safe and appropriately paced. A common myth that keeps many survivors from seeking help is the idea that you have to re-tell every minute detail of what happened to you. That isn’t true. You can engage in transformative trauma therapy, and never verbally describe the events. A good trauma therapist will help you use your body, art, and other expressive modalities to work through your trauma. While there are many methods to acknowledge, and treat your denial, it is evidentially clear that denial is a condition that needs to be addressed, and that if overlooked, will become an ongoing, and growing issue, and will be detrimental to other underlying mental health issues or concerns.

Can-Am Interventions can help bring understanding to your situation, as well as to provide treatment options tailored to your needs.

For More Information:

E: patti.pike@canaminterventions.com W:www.canaminterventions.com

1-800-638-1812 Toll Free International 415-827-3725 Cell /Text 415-578-2875 Office

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