Trauma in psychological terms means that the mind has been exposed to a level of stress beyond what it can cope with. It happens to people of all ages, and for all sorts of different reasons. So it makes sense that not everybody experiences trauma in the same way.
Sometimes trauma is the result of one distressing event, or it can be the cumulative effect of an overwhelming amount of stress. Generally, it happens because an individual’s life, safety or security is threatened.
Some events that can result in trauma include domestic violence, car accidents, being the victim of crime or kidnapping, the loss of a loved one, bullying, living through war or being exposed to intrusive medical procedures.
As you can see, the nature of the event can vary considerably. There is no valid or invalid response to a traumatic event.
What Effects Trauma?
It is impossible to gauge or predict trauma based on the facts of an event itself. Trauma isn’t dictated by what happened, but by how the individual experienced the event and, very importantly, processed it afterward.
How your mind deals with the trauma of the event will affect the extent to which you are traumatised. You can also be affected by how unexpected the event was and how unprepared for it you were.
If you felt more alone, or if the event occurred during childhood, this will also affect your experience. There is also a range of other contributing factors, including how cruel the event was, if the event was repeated, how much loss you sustained and how responsible you perceive yourself to be.
It is very common for a person who experienced trauma to blame themselves, either for the event, or for their reaction to the event. This blame makes the suffering worse.
Sometimes we show the signs of trauma immediately after the event occurs, while for other people the signs may not show up for many years. Sometimes people repress the traumatic experience and may not even remember that it happened.
There are similar symptoms and effects of trauma, however, and many people respond to the same kinds of treatments.
Symptoms of Trauma
Some of the most commons symptoms of trauma include:
- Depression and anxiety
- Constant fear
- Triggers or re-awakened memories that affect emotional responses
- Avoidance of people and places
- Flashbacks of the event
- Insomnia or nightmares
- Self-medication with alcohol or drugs
- Easily startled and on edge
- Difficulty concentrating
- Physical symptoms, such as headaches, muscle tension and vomiting
- Emotional detachment and low self-esteem.
Trauma is a complex condition because it is so different for each individual. Treatments that have the best results include psychotherapy and sensorimotor therapy. Some alternative therapies and relaxation skills can also provide help and some people respond well to medication.
If any of these symptoms sound familiar, or you need help to deal with a traumatic event, reach out to the friendly, caring team at Perth Counselling and Psychotherapy. We’re always happy to help and provide compassionate, healing trauma counselling.