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What is Trauma?

What is trauma?
Going through very stressful, frightening or distressing events is sometimes called trauma. When we talk about emotional or psychological trauma, we might mean:

  • situations or events we find traumatic
  • how we’re affected by our experiences.

Traumatic events can happen at any age and can cause long-lasting harm. Everyone has a different reaction to trauma, so you might notice any effects quickly, or a long time afterwards. Article Source

How could trauma affect me?
Trauma affects everyone differently;

  • how our bodies respond to danger
  • common mental health effects of trauma
  • trauma and physical health problems
  • how else might trauma affect me?

How our bodies respond to danger
When we feel stressed or threatened, our bodies release hormones called cortisol and adrenaline. This is the body’s automatic way of preparing to respond to danger, and we have no control over it.

This can have a range of effects, which are sometimes called:

  • Freeze – feeling paralysed or unable to move.
  • Flop – doing what you’re told without being able to protest.
  • Fight – fighting, struggling or protesting.
  • Flight – hiding or moving away.
  • Fawn – trying to please someone who harms you.

Studies have shown that stress signals can continue long after the trauma is over. This might affect your mind and body, including how you think, feel and behave.

Common mental health effects of trauma
These are some common effects of trauma that you might recognize:

  • Flashbacks – reliving aspects of a traumatic event or feeling as if it is happening now, which can happen whether or not you remember specific details of it.
  • Panic attacks – a type of fear response. They’re an exaggeration of your body’s response to danger, stress or excitement. .
  • Dissociation – one way your mind copes with overwhelming stress. You might feel numb, spaced out, detached from your body or as though the world around you is unreal.
  • Hyperarousal – feeling very anxious, on edge and unable to relax. You might be constantly looking out for threats or danger.
  • Sleep problems – you might find it hard to fall or stay asleep, feel unsafe at night, or feel anxious or afraid of having nightmares.
  • Low self-esteem – trauma can affect the way you value and perceive yourself.
  • Grief – experiencing a loss can be traumatic, including someone dying but also other types of loss. Many people experience grief as a result of how trauma has changed their lives. You might feel that trauma has caused you to miss out on some things in life, which can also lead to feelings of loss.
  • Self-harm – hurting yourself as a way of trying to cope. This could include harming parts of your body that were attacked or injured during the trauma.
  • Suicidal feelings – including being preoccupied by thoughts of ending your life, thinking about methods of suicide or making plans to take your own life.
  • Alcohol and substance misuse – a way you might try to cope with difficult emotions or memories.

Trauma and physical health problems
Studies suggest that trauma could make you more vulnerable to developing physical health problems, including long-term or chronic illnesses.

This might be because trauma can affect your body as well as your mind, which can have a long-term impact on your physical health. You might also have been physically harmed during the trauma. Having a physical illness or disability can also make you feel stressed and anxious, which might make it even harder to cope with trauma.

If you’re experiencing physical symptoms, it’s a good idea to see your GP so they can check you over and help you access the right kind of treatment and support.

How else might trauma affect me?
The effects of trauma can last for a long time, or come and go. You might find you have difficulty with day-to-day aspects of your life, including:

  • looking after yourself
  • holding down a job
  • trusting others
  • maintaining friendships or relationships
  • remembering things and making decisions
  • your sex life
  • coping with change
  • simply enjoying your leisure time.

Everyone has their own response to trauma. The treatment you are offered will depend on your particular symptoms and diagnosis (if you have one), and on your own unique needs. What helps is different person to person, and can change over time. So keeping an open mind and exploring different options can be useful