What describes trauma? Trauma can be described simply as situations or set of circumstances, actions or a series of events that cause physical, emotional, mental harm or life-threatening experiences to an individual, which results in lasting adverse affects on one’s functioning as well as physical, social, emotional or well-being.
We are discovering trauma is affecting more individuals in various ways than had been understood prior to the last 10 years. There are numerous trauma-related conditions. It was once believed that military soldiers only experienced trauma, but we have identified many areas of a persons life can contribute to trauma.
- Physical abuse
- Professional burnout
- Mental abuse
- Acute Stress
- Post traumatic stress
- Domestic Violence
- Death of someone close
- Serious Illness
- Sexual assault
Trauma associated events or situations can be hard for an individual to recognise. Trauma terms for better understanding the types of trauma.
The first one is known as Acute Trauma, which is generally connected to a single overwhelming event. Then we have Complex Trauma also know as developmental or relationship trauma, that results from extended exposure to traumatising events. Complex Trauma is when an individual experiences multiple, chronic or prolonged, developmentally unfavourable traumatic events which is often of an interpersonal nature and set on early in life. Trauma is arguably an experience or effect from either complex interpersonal trauma or acute trauma.
Some people develop post-traumatic stress disorder after exposed to either acute or complex trauma. Post-traumatic stress disorder is the trigger that causes the person to re-experience the feeling of terror or helplessness. Generally it leads the person in avoiding any cues that might be reminders of the trauma.
How do we work with Trauma in people? Trauma is individual based and considerate of the person and age of the person. The fundamental pillars needed in attempting to heal the trauma are through 1. Safety, 2. Connections, and 3. Managing Emotions. This is incredibly importance when working with children or adolescents. Using trauma-informed approach (DIA), Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), Cognitive processing therapy (CPT), Exposure therapy (ET), Eye movement Desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR), Narrative Therapy (NT), Skills training in affective and interpersonal regulation (STAIR) and Stress inoculation training (SIT).
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Emotional and psychological trauma can occur as the result of extraordinarily life events which shatter your perceived sense of safety and position in the world. Often, these events directly threaten your life or safety, and can lead to feelings of isolation and being overwhelmed. Whether the event caused you physical harm, or not, trauma can develop as a reaction to the emotional impact to the situation. Fear and helplessness in the instant, can be indicators of trauma.
Common events that because trauma include having someone close in your life die unexpectedly, seeing someone be injured or killed, seeing a dead body, being physically or emotionally abused, or being in a life-threatening accident. Physical assault, war, natural disasters, and losing people in your life can all be seen as a threat to your safety. Typically, emotional and psychological trauma can be caused by one of the three following options.
- Sudden Trauma which are time events including injury, violent attacks, or accident
- Chronic Trauma which can include bullying, dangerous living circumstances, or domestic violence.
- Overlooked cases such as losing someone important, surgery, or deeply disappointing experiences.
The Impacts of Trauma
All of these circumstances would make anyone experience feelings of fear, sadness, guilty, anger or grief. However, having difficulty coming to terms with the event, losing the ability to deal with daily life, and noticing changes in your sleep, appetite, and social habits can be indicators that you are suffering from trauma. Shock, denial, confusion, anger, anxiety, guilt, withdrawing, sadness, or hopelessness are all feelings that you may experience as part of trauma. Trauma, however, can also manifest in physical symptoms such as insomnia, nightmares, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, elevated heartbeat, muscle tension and aches. It can have significant impacts on a child’s brain development.
Check out this Tedx Talk on how Trauma affects behaviours and the brain.
How to Heal from Trauma
Trauma symptoms can last anywhere between a few days and a few months but can come back suddenly as a response to triggers. Anniversaries of the event, memories which bring up the traumatic event, or other reminders can bring the emotions back. If you are unable to move on from traumatic events, you may be suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder where your nervous system remains in a state of psychological shock and is not capable of processing emotions.
In these situations, along with getting active and moving, practising mindfulness, staying connected with friends and family, taking care of your health, making regular appointments with a counsellor can help ease your signs and symptoms. The counsellor will take a personalised approach to find the best methodology on how to help you overcome trauma.
When to Seek help from Trauma
While trauma symptoms and signs can go away over time, it is a good idea to seek help from a trauma expert if you find your emotions and memories are severely impacting your life. Having trouble functioning at home or work, suffering from anxiety or depression, inability to form close relationships, reliving terrifying memories, emotional numbness, or turning to drugs and alcohol are all clear signs to find a licensed professional.