What is trauma
A trauma is an extreme event that overwhelms our normal coping mechanisms. ‘Knocked off our feet’, we suffer a range of distressing symptoms and may struggle to make sense of things. While family, friends, social supports, and the passage of time often provide healing, this is not always the case. Untreated trauma can lead to anxiety, depression or even Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) with symptoms such as nightmares, flashbacks, spacing-out, or jumpiness.
Causes of Trauma
Any overwhelming event can cause trauma. Traumatic events may include:
- Domestic violence
- Sexual assault, rape or childhood abuse
- Disasters (e.g. Christchurch Earthquake), war, murder, imprisonment etc
- Motor vehicle or work accidents
- Physical abuse or assault
- Childhood trauma (premature birth, serious illness, loss or separation from parents, neglect, abuse etc)
- Emotional or mental abuse
- Serious illness or surgery
- Sudden grief, loss or separation
Effects of Trauma
Trauma overwhelms our usual emotional capacity. The effects can be delayed — often at the time we may have thought we were coping well only to realise later how deeply we were impacted. Over time this may have wide-ranging effects on our lives and relationships. Trauma is a common contributor to many psychological and emotional issues including insomnia, alcohol & drug use, anxiety, depression, anger, relationship difficulties & PTSD. Untreated traumatic events can continue to affect us for many years.
Domestic violence and domestic abuse, whether it be physical, sexual, emotional, or financial can cause huge damage, particularly where fear and intimidation are used to control and demean. This control can be so overwhelming that the victim of the abuse can come to believe they deserve what they get and feel frozen and immobile. There are often-long standing cycles of make-up, mounting tension and aggression which gradually erode the confidence and self-esteem of the victim.
Counselling for Trauma and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Trauma and PTSD counselling often requires time and patience. The first thing to do is to find a therapist who really understands trauma and who won’t fob you off with “pull yourself together” messages; who will work with you to understand what has happened, help you with the symptoms, develop strategies for moving forward and stand beside you on your recovery journey. You are not alone in your struggle. There is hope for recovery and a better life.