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Empower yourself by learning more about trauma.

What is trauma?

Psychological, or emotional trauma, is damage or injury to the psyche after living through an extremely frightening or distressing event and may result in challenges in functioning or coping normally after the event. The root word in "trauma" is "traum-" which comes from the Greek word "traumátos" meaning "wounded".

What causes trauma?

Emotional and psychological trauma can be caused by experiencing a stressful event that destroys your sense of security or makes you feel helpless or vulnerable. While traumatic events often involve a threat to your safety and life, any situation that takes away your sense of control — even if the situation does not cause physical harm — can be traumatic. Another cause of psychological trauma is when core childhood needs such as nurturance and secure bonding is not met. 

What causes trauma?

Trauma can result from different psychological experiences such as:

  • Unmet or frustrated childhood needs

  • Situational traumas

  • Stress disorders

  • Moral injury

  • Vicarious or secondary trauma

what is a traumatic event?

While traumatic experiences frequently involve life-threatening events, any situation that leaves one feeling alone and completely overwhelmed can be traumatic – even without physical harm. It’s important to remember that it’s not the objective facts of the event alone that determine how traumatic an event is; it’s also the subjective emotional experience of the event. Often, the more terror and helplessness one feels, the more likely it is that an individual will be traumatized.

what are the effects of trauma?

Effects of untreated psychological trauma

Many people go for years living with the symptoms of emotional and psychological trauma as their world grows steadily smaller. The effects of untreated psychological trauma can be devastating and infiltrate nearly every aspect of an individual’s life. Some of the most common effects of untreated trauma include:

  • Substance abuse

  • Alcoholism

  • Sexual problems

  • Inability to maintain healthy close relationships or choose appropriate people to be friends with

  • Hostility

  • Constant arguments with loved ones

  • Social withdrawal

  • Constant feelings of being threatened

  • Self-destructive behaviours

  • Impulsive behaviours

  • Uncontrollable reactive thoughts

  • Inability to make healthy occupational or lifestyle choices

  • Dissociative symptoms

  • Feelings of depression, shame, hopelessness, or despair

  • Feeling ineffective

  • Feeling as though one is permanently damaged

  • Loss of former belief systems

  • Compulsive behavioural patterns

what are trauma triggers?

A trauma trigger is a psychological stimulus that prompts involuntary recall of a previous traumatic experience. The stimulus itself need not be frightening or traumatic and may be only indirectly or superficially reminiscent of an earlier traumatic incident, such as a scent or a piece of clothing. Triggers can be subtle, individual, and difficult for others to predict. A trauma trigger may also be called a trauma stimulus, a trauma stressor or a trauma reminder.

Signs & Symptoms of trauma?

Some of the most common symptoms of psychological trauma may include the following:

Cognitive:

  • Intrusive thoughts of the event that may occur out of the blue

  • Nightmares

  • Visual images of the event

  • Loss of memory and concentration abilities

  • Disorientation

  • Confusion

  • Mood swings

Behavioural:

  • Avoidance of activities or places that trigger memories of the event

  • Social isolation and withdrawal

  • Lack of interest in previously-enjoyable activities

Physical:

  • Easily startled

  • Tremendous fatigue and exhaustion

  • Tachycardia

  • Edginess

  • Insomnia

  • Chronic muscle patterns

  • Sexual dysfunction

  • Changes in sleeping and eating patterns

  • Vague complaints of aches and pains throughout the body

  • Extreme alertness; always on the lookout for warnings of potential danger

Psychological:

  • Overwhelming fear

  • Obsessive and compulsive behaviours

  • Detachment from other people and emotions

  • Emotional numbing

  • Depression

  • Guilt – especially if one lived while others perished

  • Shame

  • Emotional shock

  • Disbelief

  • Irritability

  • Anger

  • Anxiety

  • Panic attacks

what is trauma Recovery?

Trauma recovery is a processes involves:

  • Psychoeducation: Information dissemination and educating in vulnerabilities and adoptable coping mechanisms.

  • Emotional regulation: Identifying, countering discriminating, grounding thoughts and emotions from internal construction to an external representation.

  • Cognitive processing: Transforming negative perceptions and beliefs about self, others and environment to positive ones through cognitive reconsideration or re-framing.

  • Trauma processing: Systematic desensitization, response activation and counter-conditioning, titrated extinction of emotional response, deconstructing disparity (emotional vs. reality state), resolution of traumatic material (in theory, to a state in which triggers no longer produce harmful distress and the individual is able to express relief.)

  • Emotional processing: Reconstructing perceptions, beliefs and erroneous expectations, habituating new life contexts for auto-activated trauma-related fears, and providing crisis cards with coded emotions and appropriate cognition. (This stage is only initiated in pre-termination phase from clinical assessment and judgement of the mental health professional.)

  • Experiential processing: Visualisation of achieved relief state and relaxation methods, imagery re-scripting.

What does it mean to be TRAUMATISED?

While each person who experiences a traumatic event will react differently, many do recover well with a proper support system and do not experience long-term problems. Some people, however, after experiencing a traumatic event will go on to develop challenges directly following the event or within a few months of the event. 

What are the steps to getting help?

  1. Identify the signs and symptoms of trauma in yoursef.

  2. Confront your own denial of the trauma.

  3. Practice positive self care.

  4. Get yourself in a safe space. 

  5. Reach out for support to family and friends.

  6. Process the traumatic thoughts and feelings.

  7. Seek professional help if trauma symptoms persist or gets worse.

  8. Work through the trauma.

  9. Reconnect to yourself and others in a healthy way.

Learn more about trauma in the next section.

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