All you need to know about trauma

What is trauma?

Trauma is any type of distressing event or experience that can have an impact on a person's ability to cope and function, possibly resulting in emotional, physical, and psychological harm. Many of us will experience some kind of traumatic event at some point in our lives (e.g. the unexpected death of a loved one).

Types of trauma

Typically, the source of trauma can be grouped into the following 3 categories:
1. One-time events that are limited in duration and scope (e.g. accidents, natural disasters)
2. Long-lasting and ongoing trauma (e.g. coping with a chronic illness or dealing with repeated domestic abuse)
3. Trauma that occurs during childbirth or surgery

Commons reactions to trauma


Intrusive thoughts and memories of the traumatic event, especially if you encounter something (person, place, image) that reminds you of it


Hypervigilance, where you become more on-guard and aware of your surroundings, a protective mechanism


Hyperarousal, where you become more sensitve and on edge


Feeling unsafe, where places or situations you once felt secure in may now feel threatening and be anxiety-provoking

Symptoms to watch for


Loss of interest in activities that you used to enjoy, and feelings of being detached from others


Avoidance behaviours, as avoidance usually leads to more avoidance as it reinforces the belief that the world is not a safe place, leading to a worsening of symptoms, and ultimately PTSD


Unhealthy coping behaviours (e.g. using of substances)

“Normal” trauma response vs. PTSD

You might notice that the symptoms that commonly occur with trauma are also the symptoms of PTSD, but having them does not mean you have PTSD, for the following 2 reasons:
1. The symptoms are much less severe and intense than PTSD symptoms
2. PTSD cannot be diagnosed until at least 30 days following a traumatic event as many of these symptoms are a part of your body's natural response to a traumatic event and they will gradually reduce over time

Healthy coping strategies

Here are some ways to process and cope with trauma:
1. Validate your feelings
2. Find a support group
3. Give yourself time to deal with your emotions
4. Take care of your body
5. Spend time with family and friends
6. Establish a regular routine or schedule

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