Psychological Trauma

Traumatic events – even potential traumatic events – are powerful and upsetting incidents that impose significant stress on the mind and body of an individual. These experiences can be life threatening, perceived to be life threatening, and/or pose a significant threat to a person’s physical or psychological wellbeing and development.

Very frightening or distressing events may result in a psychological wound or injury. This trauma can make it difficult to cope later in a person’s life, preventing or disrupting adaptive emotional development and function in the social world. Often, interpersonal relationships are significantly impacted.

Situations and events that can lead to psychological trauma include:

  • acts of violence such as an armed robbery, war or terrorism
  • natural disasters such as bushfires, earthquakes or floods
  • interpersonal violence such as rape, child abuse (inlcuding neglect), or the suicide of a family member or friend
  • Bullying at school or in other social environments
  • involvement in a serious motor vehicle or workplace accident

Other stressful situations which appear less severe may still trigger traumatic reactions in some people.

See: https://www.psychology.org.au/for-the-public/Psychology-Topics/Trauma

Symptoms of Trauma

Intense emotional or physical reactions following the experience of a traumatic event are typical and expected. It is when the mind and body continue to react in unhelpful, dysfunctional or maladaptive ways over a period of time (e.g., later in life) that a trauma diagnosis may be required, and treatment is necessary for recovery.

Symptoms of trauma can be described as physical, cognitive (thinking), behavioural (things we do) and emotional.

  • Physical symptoms can include excessive alertness (always on the look-out for signs of danger), being easily startled, fatigue/exhaustion, disturbed sleep and general aches and pains.
  • Cognitive (thinking) symptoms can include intrusive thoughts and memories of the event, visual images of the event, nightmares, poor concentration and memory, disorientation and confusion.
  • Behavioural symptoms can include avoidance of places or activities that are reminders of the event, social withdrawal and isolation and loss of interest in normal activities.
  • Emotional symptoms can include fear, numbness and detachment, depression, guilt, anger and irritability, anxiety and panic.
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Polyvagal theory identifies a third type of nervous system response that Porges calls the social engagement system, a playful mixture of activation and calming that operates out of unique nerve influence. The social engagement system helps us navigate relationships.
https://ct.counseling.org/2016/06/polyvagal-theory-practice/ retrieved Feb 08, 2019