Trauma is a kind of psychological injury that follows a significantly distressing event or experience. It involves difficulties in coping and can impair your everyday functioning. For most that experience some traumatic event, with time and support, they recover and will not see any long-term consequences. For others, these events or experiences may stay with them for months or years and cause severe distress and psychological problems.
Traumatic events and experiences are typically life-threatening, or may involve a significant threat to one’s physical and emotional wellbeing. Some examples include natural disasters (e.g., earthquakes, cyclones), acts of violence (e.g., robbery, terrorism, war), vehicle collisions, and interpersonal violence (e.g., rape, domestic violence, child abuse). All of these examples involve a perceived threat to one’s life or anticipated harm, and can often involve a lack of control in the situation and elevated stress. There are many other situations that may also be perceived as traumatic and have adverse effects on an individual’s wellbeing.
Trauma can lead to a wide range of symptoms. These experiences depend on the nature of the event and vary from person to person. These symptoms may last from weeks to years.
- Excessive alertness, on lookout for danger
- Poor sleep/insomnia
- Easily startled
- Anxiety, worry, feelings of panic
- Intrusive thoughts of event
- Impaired focus and forgetfulness
- Avoidance of reminders of experience (e.g., place it occurred)
- Social isolation
Getting through trauma:
- Focus on self-care: Make sure you are eating well and getting enough sleep and exercise. Be kind to yourself and let yourself be upset. Try to maintain your routine but set aside time to relax – enjoy some of your favourite relaxing activities like listening to music and try to practice mindfulness with some meditation.
- Avoid avoidance: Pretending that the experience didn’t happen will prevent you from working through it. It may seem easier to take the route of escapism but recognising that it occurred will help you to move towards confronting your emotions and moving forward. Try not to overuse drugs or alcohol, bottle up your feelings or make impulsive or life-changing decisions.
- Reach out: Talk to your loved ones when you need support, and let them know when you need some time or space. If intense emotions, consistent disturbed sleep, feelings of emptiness or tension persist, or you would like some additional support, seeking some professional assistance could help.