Trauma can occur to anyone who has suddenly been exposed to some sort of threat. It could be the result of a car accident, witnessing a frightening event, some sort of abuse (physical, sexual, domestic or family), the loss of a loved one, natural disasters, or news of a frightening illness. Trauma can also be long term, for example child abuse or domestic violence.
People who have experienced trauma can oftentimes experience a wide range of emotional responses such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, anger and grief. These are all completely normal reactions to trauma – but they can be extremely debilitating and have hugely negative impact in living a happy and fulfilled life.
Many people who have experienced trauma are fearful of talking about it – because they don’t want to revisit the pain of the memory of what occurred. Our natural tendency is avoidance – if I don’t think about it – maybe the pain will go away. For some people – this can lead to repressed memory. For others, it means that the trauma remains unresolved and continually returns with the same pain and intensity.
Although it might seem contrary – research shows that trauma is actually resolved by confronting it, rather than avoiding it. Talking through what has occurred with a psychologist can be really helpful in getting you to get a place of peace and acceptance and empowering you to move forward. Whilst confronting trauma is very scary to a lot of people – the longer-term outcomes are ultimately very positive.
If you have been exposed to trauma and are struggling to cope with it - talking with one of our specially trained psychologists at Relieve Psychology will definitely help to ease the pain.
All consultations are confidential and you will be treated with care, empathy and respect.
To make an appointment call (03) 8394 3891 and get some relief!
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Trauma Counselling What is psychological trauma? Psychological trauma usually occurs after a particularly distressing event or a series of enduring events. The result of this can lead you to feel totally overwhelmed and unable to cope. These events are typically so far outside what we expect and what we believe that our reactions can seem somewhat unusual or even disturbing. Reactions like this are normal though, and should be expected after trauma.
The most common term used to describe the symptoms of psychological trauma is post traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. Categorised as an anxiety disorder, PTSD occurs after a traumatic event and refers to ongoing, severe symptoms such as flashbacks and insomnia. Not everyone who experiences a traumatic event will go on to develop PTSD. There are different severities of psychological trauma, some symptoms are mild and may go away with time, while others can be more severe (such as PTSD) and will require professional treatment. When it comes to trauma, the sooner you seek help the better.
Causes of trauma As previously mentioned, trauma is subjective and can have a multitude of causes. The common factor for events that lead to trauma is that they are not anticipated and are outside the realms of what we deem to be acceptable - physically, emotionally or socially. Below are some examples of events that could lead to psychological trauma.
Abuse This can refer to physical, emotional, sexual or verbal abuse. Anything that can be described as improper treatment that leads you to feel violated in some way constitutes abuse. The traumatic event could be a one-off attack or a recurring form of abuse that takes place over long periods of time.
Accidents Being involved in an accident can lead to a traumatic response. Examples include car accidents, a bad fall and accidentally harming someone else. Even if you were not physically harmed by the accident in question, being involved and experiencing the event can still lead to traumatic feelings. Brain tumour and brain injuryInjuries and cancer of the brain can be catastrophic for both the person affected and those around them. In some cases, such injuries and illness can alter personalities or affect key motor skills - both of which can lead to symptoms of psychological trauma.
Catastrophic events This can relate to natural disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis and hurricanes as well as man-made events like war and bombings. Being involved in these kinds of events can affect you both directly and indirectly.
Physical injury Some physical injuries can change your life forever. You may have had a limb amputated and need to learn to cope with your new disability, or you may be left with physical scarring and chronic pain. Either way, this kind of trauma often requires a great deal of emotional support alongside physical rehabilitation.
Terminal illness/bereavement Whether it's yourself or someone close to you who has been diagnosed with a terminal illness, traumatic symptoms are often experienced. Equally, when someone close to you passes away (whether it's expected or unexpected) you can start to question your belief system and shut down emotionally.
Violence Experiencing violence in any way can be traumatic. Whether you have been the victim of physical violence, threatened with violence or even witnessed violence - you could find yourself suffering from symptoms of psychological trauma.
Symptoms of trauma Symptoms of trauma vary from person to person and depend on the severity of the event. These symptoms can last anything from a couple of days to decades if treatment isn't sought. Some people also find that they do not notice any symptoms immediately after the event as they can often occur some time later. Common symptoms of psychological trauma include:
- Flashbacks – When you re-experience the traumatic event mentally or physically. - Insomnia – After a traumatic experience it is common to have difficulties sleeping due to nightmares or due to mentally going over details of the event. - Anxiety – Feeling constantly anxious after a trauma is very common. Sometimes these feelings turn into anxiety disorders such as PTSD or panic attacks. - Stress – Even if you handled stress very well before your experience, many people find stress harder to manage after a traumatic event. - Anger – Feeling angry after a trauma is very common. You might be angry at the person who traumatised you, at the event itself or even at the world. This can lead to outbursts and other anger management issues. - Depression – Many people fall into a depression after experiencing something very distressing. You can be left wondering why the event happened to you - leading to dark moods and in severe cases, suicidal thoughts. - Loss of self-esteem – It can be easy to lack self-belief and self-confidence after you have experienced something traumatic. You can be left questioning your identity and what you have to offer the world. - Self-medication – For some, the only way they feel they can deal with what happened is by self-medicating with alcohol or drugs. This leads to very self-destructive behaviour and can isolate you from friends and family. - Emotional detachment – For some, the emotions brought up are so severe that they cannot deal with them at all. This can lead to emotional numbness, also known as dissociation. You may refuse to deal with any psychological issues you have and could appear cold and distant to others.
The longer your trauma symptoms go untreated, the more psychological damage they could cause. Therefore it is important to know when to seek professional help.
When to seek help No matter how major or minor your traumatic experience was, you might benefit from professional help from acounsellor. As we all react differently to these types of events, it is important not to compare yourself to other people, even if they went through the same experience. By getting help as soon as you need it, you will be giving yourself the best chance to overcome any issues and move on with your life. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms described above and they are persisting for weeks or even months, be sure to seek help. It is especially important to get help if you experience any of the following:
- You feel unable to function in day-to-day life. - You are unable to form or maintain relationships. - You are self-medicating with drugs and/or alcohol. - You are experiencing severe flashbacks. - You feel emotionally numb. - You are suffering from an anxiety/stress disorder due to trauma.