Skip to main content

The term “compartmentalization” describes the defense mechanism that helps people deal with things like trauma, grief, and emotional distress. Instead of addressing issues, people will put their issues into mental boxes where they tuck these problems away. In this way, individuals feel that they will never have to deal with them again. The problem is that these problems will eventually need to be reckoned with. 

For a number of people, this reckoning comes at a cost. Mental health and self-worth can degenerate into thoughts and behaviors whose outcomes can leave the individual broken and worse off than before.

Dangers of Compartmentalizing

Everyone has bad memories and negative experiences in their lives. However, in many cases, people with severe trauma have locked it away for a variety of reasons. It may even be a considerable number of smaller traumas that have never been dealt with. When they are stored away, they form a pile of mental boxes, each sitting precariously atop the another. Keeping them perfectly closed and stacked can take a lot out of a person. Often, they think that they are doing themselves a favor by hiding feelings and emotions from themselves and others.

The person who has been compartmentalizing by doing their best to hold back the thoughts and feelings about their previous trauma may find themselves faced with new problems. From this, thoughts can manifest through anything from basic emotional distress over a tough situation all the way to brain damage caused by a painful accident. When this happens, the mental boxes will fall, and all of their repressed pain and anguish will come pouring out. Therefore, for most people, current trauma can be bad enough on its own. However, for those with repressed trauma that has been compartmentalized and tucked away, the fallout can be disastrous.

When It Falls Apart

Unfortunately, when the unthinkable happens, and people are forced to face the demons of their past, they will often find them to be too much to handle. Some people may find themselves with suicidal ideations, while others may turn to substances, such as drugs and alcohol, to dull the pain and try to put the boxes back in vain. All this serves to do is temporarily ease the pain and put them into a deeper spiral where their problems are compounded.

Friends and family may see the individual struggling in a way they never have before. Previously stable people may begin showing signs of erratic behavior, lack of attention, and general unease. Those who know them well may even notice mood swings, lashing out both emotionally and physically. When this happens, it is vital that these people are confronted with their changing behavior, and they should be asked questions to figure out what might be wrong.

In the best situation, the person will break down and share that they are struggling. They may not wish to discuss the trauma and should not be forced to. However, it is important that they are reminded that people around them love them and recognize that something is wrong. With this realization, they may become aware that their issues are bigger than themselves and affect those around them. This mindset may cause them to reevaluate their situation and admit they need help. That is the perfect time to talk with them about their options.

The Aftermath

Dealing with trauma is hard, no matter when we choose to address it. However, the sooner we do, the fewer mental boxes we need to stack. When people find that the boxes are about to fall or have already fallen, the best thing to do is get professional help. The options for medical assistance are dependent on the situation, the individual’s mindset, and what types of trauma they are dealing with.

This treatment can come in many different forms depending on your needs. Some of the options include:

None of these options need to exist on their own. In fact, quite a number of them can and will be used in tandem. After a breakdown, some people may start in a detox program, transition into an inpatient rehab program, and wind up in outpatient care of some kind. Often outpatient care will include some kind of MAT, which will help ease some of the side effects that exist even after major treatment has ended.

Ultimately, it is impossible to gauge how much damage a person can do to themselves by compartmentalizing pain and trauma. However, with help and guidance, it is possible to slowly take down each box and sort through it in a way that will ease the process. When this process is addressed by a medical professional, you will be given the tools to help keep a steady head. This will allow you to deal with deeply harbored pain and the counterintuitive mindset that ignoring will make it all better. The boxes will fall, and when they do, it is up to us to help our loved ones, and even ourselves recover.

Get the Necessary Help

Mental trauma affects many people. When it is suppressed, it leads individuals to a bad spot. Before this happens, it is crucial to find a program that offers the treatment needed to deal with the underlying mental health issues. Not everyone has the innate ability to heal on their own and requires guidance from an outside source. Add to that any kind of dual diagnosis, and there may be a need for an in-depth detox and rehabilitation process. If this applies to you or someone you know, contact The Phoenix Recovery Center. We are proud to offer the services you need to get you back on the right track. Call us today at (801) 438-3185.

The Phoenix Recovery Center
489 W. South Jordan Pkwy
Suite 400
South Jordan, UT