Trauma is perhaps one of the most underdiagnosed mental health conditions in the world today. Trauma can occur in every neighbourhood, every socio-economic class, and in every city or rural area across the globe.
In its most basic form trauma, in the mental health definition of the term, is any type of experience which causes emotional distress, pain and damage to an individual. It is an internal issue which leaves people feeling helpless, powerless and unable to control the fear and anxiety they are experiencing. Often people may not realise the problematic thoughts and even the physiological responses they are experiencing are linked to something they saw or experienced in their near or distant past.
There are many different experiences in life which can cause emotional trauma. Some of the most common include:
- Experiencing a life threatening situation
- Being in a car accident or witnessing an accident
- Being assaulted or abused
- Experiencing abuse as a child
- Sexual harassment
- Chronic illnesses
- Public humiliation
- Witnessing abuse or cruelty
The Signs and Symptoms
The signs of trauma can be almost immediate, or they can take months or even years to become problematic. They may also come and go based on other factors in your life and in your environment. Typical responses to trauma which are significant and problematic include:
- Withdrawing from social situations
- Extreme anxiety during familiar events or activities which were not problematic or stressful in the past
- Flashbacks or unwanted memories of a traumatic event
- Difficulty in sleeping, nightmares and fear of nightmares
- Agitation and irritability
- Problems concentrating at work or in social situations
- Fear of specific places, often those similar to or associated with the trauma
- Feelings of intense panic which may result in wanting to flee, to fight or to freeze
- Mental fatigue, confusion and exhaustion
Counselling and Support
There are several options for counselling, psychotherapy and even specialized therapy for those with PTSD (Post-traumatic stress disorder) which are highly effective in processing the trauma and moving forward.
By working with a professional trained in trauma counselling a safe, supportive and positive environment is created in the sessions to allow the client to look back on the traumatic event and separate the reality from the ongoing fear and anxiety around the event.
Specific coping strategies can be used to allow the client to take control of the stress and anxiety they are feeling and work through the emotional component. With the help of the therapist, the trauma is literally unpacked and examined, normalising the event and developing effective strategies for the future.