What is Trauma?

Definition: Any deeply distressing, disturbing experience can be classed as trauma.

Trauma is the emotional shock following a stressful event or physical injury. Untreated it can lead to long term mental health conditions, such as anxiety or depression.

There are 3 types of trauma:

  1. Acute trauma: This results from a single stressful or dangerous event – eg a car crash or sudden death of someone close.
  2. Chronic trauma: This results from repeated and prolonged exposure to highly stressful events. Examples include cases of emotional neglect, child abuse, bullying, or domestic violence.
  3. Complex trauma: This results from exposure to multiple traumatic events – eg living through Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)

Narcissist abuse creates trauma – it can be chronic or complex… or both.

Impact of trauma

All trauma is stressful, but not all stress is traumatic.

It is common to feel upset after something traumatic happens. But while some people may feel better in a few weeks or months, others may experience negative changes in thoughts, feelings or behaviour that impact their daily lives – such as intrusive thoughts, nightmares, flashbacks, difficulty with memory and concentration and mood swings.

The emotional distress of the trauma can make it difficult to relate to other people, so a person might withdraw from friends and family and stop attending social activities, or doing activities previously enjoyed.

Physical reactions to trauma include trouble eating and sleeping, exhaustion, confusion, numbness, feeling shaky and feeling agitated. Studies also suggest that trauma could make you more vulnerable to long term or chronic illness.

For some people trauma leads to mental health issues such as PTSD, depression, anxiety or addictions. Complex trauma can lead to complex PTSD.

There is no one way to determine who will suffer from trauma and who will not. What happens to each of us is different – we are all unique and our perception of how life occurs is a very personal experience. It can only be interpreted through our own lens of reference.

The impact of trauma on an individual can depend upon:

  1. What the traumatic event was
    eg People who were able to do something in the moment of trauma, such as helping to facilitate an escape or save others, are less likely to experience severe trauma compared to those who remained paralysed or helpless .
  1. Individual Make-up:
    In situations where a person was raised in a stable environment with loving parents or trusted guardians, they are more likely to have developed resilience and strength that would have served them very well in times of stress or even trauma as a result.
  1. Spiritual & Philosophical beliefs:
    Spiritual and Philosophical belief systems such as religion or belief in a higher beings also contribute to an individuals resilience and ability to withstand or process trauma. 

Science of Trauma

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