What is trauma?
When our bodies experience a serious physical injury,
such as loss of a limb, the crushing effects of a car
crash, or exposure to extreme weather conditions, they
undergo trauma. We go into shock and our bodily systems
struggle to function so that we may survive. Similarly,
our emotional and psychological wellbeing, our psyches,
can be injured when we experience an extremely stressful
or life-threatening occurrence. We can lose our ability
to cope with the stresses in our lives because we are
completely overwhelmed by what we have experienced.
Experiences that may lead to psychological trauma include
being the victim of or witness to violence or sexual
abuse, experiencing a significant loss, going through
a catastrophic situation such as an earthquake or war,
or long-term exposure to extreme poverty, abuse, or
other negative conditions. As Esther Giller, says, "Trauma
is defined by the experience of the survivor."
What is traumatic to one individual may not be traumatic
What are the effects of trauma?
The following are common symptoms of psychological
- re-experiencing the trauma through
memories, flashbacks or disturbing dreams
- being jumpy, easily startled,
and constantly alert or on guard
- feeling angry (due to a sense
- feeling emotionally detached
or numb; being unable to feel anything
- losing confidence and self-esteem
- feeling hopeless and powerless
- feeling depressed
- turning to drugs/alcohol in
an effort to escape feelings
What is the treatment for trauma?
Just as it takes time for the body to recover from
physical injury, healing from psychological trauma is
a process. The disturbing memories and symptoms won't
disappear over night. However, with time, support, and
a process of healing, victims of trauma can recover
their ability to cope and regain their trust in themselves
and the world.
A key part of healing from trauma is finding a safe
place to tell your story. Reach out to your personal
support network and find people who will listen with
compassion and understanding.
If you feel that trauma symptoms are affecting your
work, family relationships, or other aspects of your
life, you may need to seek additional support from a
trained mental healthcare professional. A therapist
can support you as you tell your story and try to make
meaning of it. He or she can help you to learn skills
to cope with your stress symptoms. Over time, you will
build trust with your therapist and eventually be able
to reconnect with yourself and other people.