What is Trauma?
Emotional and psychological trauma is the result of extremely stressful events that destroy your sense of security, making you feel helpless. Traumatic experiences often involve a threat to life or safety, but any situation that leaves you feeling overwhelmed and alone can be traumatic, even if it doesn’t involve physical harm. It’s not the objective facts that determine whether an event is traumatic, but your own experience of the event. The more frightened and helpless you feel, the more likely you are to be traumatised.
Causes of Trauma
Emotional and psychological trauma can be caused by:
- Ongoing, consistent stress such as, illness
- Break up of a relationship
- Humiliating or deeply disappointing experience
- Any form of abuse
- Early childhood negative experiences
- Family or environmental factors
- Injury and long term recovery from injury
An event can lead to trauma if:
- It happened unexpectedly.
- You were unprepared for it.
- You felt powerless to prevent it.
- It happened repeatedly.
- Someone was intentionally cruel.
- It happened in childhood
Common Symptoms of Trauma
People react in different ways to trauma, experiencing a wide range of physical and emotional reactions and there is no “right” or “wrong” way to think, feel, or respond. The following are some of the common psychological, emotional and physical symptoms of trauma;
Emotional & psychological symptoms:
- Shock, denial, or disbelief
- Confusion, difficulty concentrating
- Anger, irritability, mood swings
- Anxiety and fear
- Guilt, shame, self-blame
- Withdrawing from others
- Feeling sad or hopeless
- Feeling disconnected or numb
- Insomnia or nightmares
- Being startled easily
- Difficulty concentrating
- Racing heartbeat
- Edginess and aggitation
- Aches and pains
- Muscle tension
Symptoms typically last from a few days to a few months, decreasing in intensity as you process the trauma. But even when you’re feeling better, you may be troubled from time to time by painful memories or emotions—especially in response to triggers which can be anything from an event to a smell that reminds you of the trauma.
When May Psychological Support Be Helpful?
Recovering from a traumatic event takes time, and everyone heals at their own pace. But if months have passed and your symptoms aren’t letting up, it may be a good idea to get some professional support.
Signs that professional support might be necessary are as follows;
- Having trouble functioning at home or work
- Suffering from severe fear, anxiety, or depression
- Unable to form close, satisfying relationships
- Experiencing terrifying memories, nightmares, or flashbacks
- Increasingly avoiding things that remind you of the trauma
- Feeling emotionally numb and disconnected from others
- Using alcohol or drugs as a source of coping
- One to one therapy
- Family support
- Group work
- EMDR therapy