Why TikTok is so obsessive about labeling all the things a trauma response.

In current TikTok parlance, almost any behavior can be a trauma reaction. Are you struggling to make small decisions? Possible trauma reaction. Over-preparation, over-analysis, over-performance? All possible trauma reactions. Are you scrolling social media to the point where you wonder if you have a scrolling problem? Trauma response. Are you getting defensive and fighting out in fights with your significant other? Trauma response. Be a perfectionist? You guessed it, also a possible trauma reaction.

The platform’s explanations of why exactly these activities could be trauma reactions are usually provided by someone claiming to be a therapist or perhaps a “coach”. There are colorful lyrics and sometimes sad piano music. Or the information is passed on in a trendy TikTok format – for example, Britt Piper, a “coach” who has completed several training courses on the subject of trauma and has almost 200,000 followers, plays various “trauma reactions” to the soundtracks of in a video Songs from Bo Burnham’s musical comedy special Inside. In another, she invites viewers to “put a finger down” while listing different behaviors to see if they’re a good friend or just stuck in a trauma reaction. Another asks the question, “Is that your trauma response?” As text over a video of a woman calling the handle Ask Courtney. Courtney, who uses her first name to avoid harassment and has 340,000 followers, says she has worked in the mental health field and although she sometimes poses as a therapist in videos, she is not licensed – if I press her to say your references she, “Licenses mean nothing to mental health,” before adding, “I haven’t crawled out from under a bridge.” The “trauma reaction” with which she easily diagnoses the audience, incidentally, is a “human fallen”.

The trend towards traumatizing behaviors is so ubiquitous that there are now viral jokes about it. It seems, in part, to be a simple case of social media rhetoric: conveying a wide range of relatable annoyances and pitfalls of being human while increasing the stakes by saying, “We are here because we are traumatized. “But I wanted to know: What do licensed therapists actually think of this ubiquitous tendency to refer to anything and everything as a trauma reaction?

Perfectionism could be a response to trauma – or it could be a cultural value, or how you were raised, or even a real mode of adjustment that you can slip into for some aspects of yours Job.

First, what is a trauma response? Trauma is when your body learns things in a state of danger, says Chandra Ghosh, associate director of the Child Trauma Research Program at the University of California at San Francisco. She shared a picture with the personified danger: a little dragon with two heads. Faced with a dragon – danger – you could run away. You could play dead. You could start beating the kite. You could even try to calm the dragon down and argue. These are the four F’s of trauma responses: fight, flee, freeze, or fawn (or tend and befriend, depending on who you ask – Ghosh says the research community tends to befriend, but TikTok firmly believes in -Kitz). The exact number of F’s also depends on who you’re speaking to, even among licensed psychologists. But whatever you do to fend off the threat – it could prove to be a solid, rewarding way to deal with danger, burning into your nervous system and flaring up, even when you’re relatively safe. This is by and large a trauma response.

Although they are broadly divided into the F’s, the details of the answers vary from person to person. It can be “any kind of response” one has as a result of a traumatic event, says John Donahue, associate professor of applied behavioral science at the University of Baltimore. Also, not all people will experience the same events as trauma – to expand on Ghosh’s dragon metaphor: a person who has been trained to use dragons may not be traumatized by their presence.

If the exact definitions of “trauma” and “trauma response” are a little difficult to summarize, you may have already suspected that not every final personality trait of a person can be consistently traced back to a traumatic experience. “These things, called ‘trauma responses,’ are just predictable responses to anxiety,” says Kathleen Smith, therapist and author. (She also points out that trauma is a spectrum and suggests labeling someone as traumatized is most useful from her point of view for insurance forms.) The urge to flee the room, for example, during a fight, or to never, never, angry boss might be more ingrained – much harder to reflect and then shake – when it comes from a place of trauma. But just having these personality traits doesn’t mean much. “A lot of things can affect you, and not everything is trauma,” says Ghosh. Perfectionism could be a response to trauma – or it could be a cultural value, or how you were raised, or even a real mode of adjustment that you can slip into for some aspects of your job.

It probably doesn’t hurt much to label yourself traumatized, although some therapists I spoke to feared the label could leave people with a very intense label that was not true to them, which could even lead to that they feel strange about their families, which gave them a safe but flawed upbringing. But “if your parents have perfectionist tendencies and you want to sit with them sadly – it won’t hurt you,” she says. Indeed, it is possible that the connection of perfectionist tendencies with “trauma” in the most slangest social algorithm – y sense of the word – could help. “A lot of the things we would do in trauma-informed treatment would be good for everyone,” says Ghosh. In the mental health terminology hierarchy, trauma may sound more intense than mere fear (though who knows how long!), But both can be bears – or relatively minor problems.

The extension of the definition of trauma to basically everyone can reasonably be understood as a game for the assignability of an app that lives off of it. “People will be very loose and broad in defining trauma responses, in order to be generally appealing or to get people to think, ‘Oh, that’s me,'” says Tanner Hoegh, a licensed consultant in Illinois. the videos are made by TikTok under the handle @tik_tok_counseling. Hoegh has a million followers on the app and has contributed his own posts to the trauma response genre. In a video titled “The Trauma Test,” he asks viewers a simple question they can ask to determine if they have trauma: “Are you hurting?” He says the goal of his account is to To share educational materials and that he tries to broadly describe things in order to raise awareness of a wide variety of mental health issues – and not just mental health issues, but the idea that anyone who looks at the content will Video itself deserves help.

But, as always, some people are trying to make money off of this particular information economy: some trauma response video creators sell services that claim to help the people who have just “diagnosed” them in some way. Courtney’s bio has a link to her coaching website that advertises sessions on an introductory package of two for $ 150 for one person or two for $ 200 for a couple. “Everything you need to heal is in you,” the website says (it’s the one without a license). Britt Piper offers an eight-week intimate group coaching program for $ 1,500 upfront or eight payments of $ 206. A private coaching program of the same length costs more than $ 3,000, but spots are filled through January.

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I find it hard to say that any of these individual coaches are charlatans. I spoke to both Piper and Courtney about their videos and business. In phone calls, both shared more nuanced views on trauma responses than they did in their TikTok videos (duh, I assume), explaining that certain behaviors are trauma responses in that they are ingrained and difficult to stop. They told me that they had experienced trauma themselves and at certain points in their life they felt misunderstood by the professionals who were supposed to help them. That makes sense – culturally and clinically, we still believe that women’s trauma should be taken seriously. The reason you’ve almost certainly heard of the fight-or-flight system, but may not have heard of “Ted-and-Befriend” or “Fawn”, is that PTSD research originally focused on men, Ghosh explained to me, and therefore missed answers that were partly driven by the way women are culturally prepared to deal with conflict.

In a way, TikTok’s trauma response feels like a reply: We “should” be polite all the time, and yet, if we are, it might not be a sign of an intrinsic personality trait, but something worthwhile to be interviewed. But this interrogation need not take the form of pseudo-psychiatric care – shouldn’t mental health care include supervision and be set up as part of a standardized system? “If I say, ‘If you like a cheese sandwich, you may be trauma’ – I could lose my driver’s license,” says Hoegh. There are no such assignments with people who work as coaches; the only way to be accountable is for something they say to make them unpopular. By not so subtly suggesting that everyone has trauma, they open up their audience and customer base to, well, everyone. Trauma is trending right now – and big, general, high-profile trends are good not only for little YouTubers, but also for the social media that host their #traumaresponse videos themselves.

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