WHAT IS IT?
Emotional and psychological trauma can be the result of an extraordinarily stressful one-off event or ongoing events that shatter your sense of security, making you feel helpless and vulnerable. Trauma can be caused by being directly harmed by a one-off event such as a bad accident, a natural disaster or a violent attack. Or it can result from ongoing, relentless stress, such as (living in a crime-ridden neighbourhood) or struggling with major health issues. Witnessing harm to someone else such as domestic abuse, living in a traumatic atmosphere or being affected by trauma in the family or community can cause lasting effects of trauma.
Traumatic events can happen at any age and can have long-lasting effects. Everyone has a different reaction to trauma, so you might notice any effects quickly, or a long time afterwards. If you’ve been affected by trauma, it’s important to remember that you survived however you could and are having common, normal reactions.
Going through further trauma can also cause you to start being affected by past experiences, or make existing problems worse. It’s ok to ask for help at any time – including if you’re not sure if you’ve experienced trauma. What’s traumatic is personal. You might have similar experiences to someone else, but be affected differently. . Trauma can manifest days, months or even years after the actual event.
Trauma can include events where you feel:
- under threat
- bullied or discriminated against
Trauma can sometimes directly cause mental health problems, or make you more vulnerable to developing them. Some conditions are also known to develop as a direct result of trauma, including Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (Complex PTSD).
How you’re affected may depend on other things too, such as:
- previous experiences of trauma
- other stresses or worries at the time or later on
- being harmed by people close to you
- whether anyone helped or supported you.
There are various approaches to trauma and mental health problems. Some people find it helpful to get a diagnosis because this feels validating or explains what they’re going through. Others feel this makes the focus of their problems more medical than is helpful.
The causes and symptoms of trauma are various, but there are some basic signs;
- appearing shaken and disoriented. People may not respond to conversation as they would normally and will often appear withdrawn or not present even when speaking.
- anxiety – this can manifest in problems such as night terrors, edginess, irritability, poor concentration and mood swings.
- emotional symptoms – including denial, anger, sadness and emotional outbursts. Overwhelming emotions experienced may be directed toward other sources, such as friends or family members.
- physical symptoms – including paleness, lethargy, fatigue, poor concentration and a racing heartbeat. The victim may have anxiety or panic attacks and be unable to cope in certain circumstances.
- Sometimes trauma is virtually unnoticeable even to the victim’s closest friends and family. These cases illustrate the importance of talking to someone after a traumatic event has occurred, even if they show no initial signs of disturbance.
COPING WITH TRAUMA
Connecting with people who have also survived trauma can sometimes be particularly helpful, for example through peer support. This includes if you don’t see your experiences in terms of medical problems or symptoms. Some people find it helpful to join groups that are part of a survivor’s movement, such as the National Survivor User Network (NSUN).
Complex Trauma can develop as a result of prolonged and repeated traumatic incidents. Examples are child abuse, domestic abuse, experiencing danger in military employment.
Can include all the above symptoms related to trauma.
COPING WITH COMPLEX TRAUMA
As listed above, with Trauma