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Trauma symptoms can occur when you experience frightening or distressing events that are life threatening, or where there is a significant threat to your physical or psychological wellbeing.
Many situations can trigger psychological trauma. And while the situations we find traumatic can vary from person to person, traumatic events may leave you feeling frightened, humiliated, powerless, trapped, or invalidated. Traumatic events can happen at any age and can cause long-lasting damage. What’s more is that you might not notice the effects of these events for many years after they happen.
Trauma makes you more vulnerable to developing mental health problems, and some believe that all mental health problems stem from traumatic experience. For some people, time and social support are great healers and these factors can enable people to recover from their trauma. But, for others, the normal effects of trauma persist for a long period and significantly interfere with the activities of life. When this happens, these people may develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or Complex PTSD (CPTSD).
PTSD can occur when you have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event such as a natural disaster, a serious accident, a terrorist act, war, rape or being threatened with death or serious injury. While it is normal to experience some of the following symptoms after such a traumatic event, people with PTSD experience these intensely, for long periods after the event has happened:
- Excessive alertness (on the look-out for signs of danger), easily startled, fatigue/exhaustion, disturbed sleep, general aches and pains, stomach problems.
- Intense fear, numbness and detachment, depression, guilt, anger and irritability, anxiety, and panic attacks.
- Intrusive thoughts and memories of the event, visual images of the event, flashbacks, recurrent nightmares, poor concentration and memory, confusion.
- Avoidance of places or activities that are reminders of the event, social withdrawal, and isolation.
While PTSD typically results from short-lived trauma that is time limited, Complex PTSD is a condition that can develop in people who have experienced severe, repetitive trauma over an extended period of time – typically in childhood. Types of traumatic experience that can lead to CPTSD include significant emotional deprivation, neglect, or abuse, witnessing or experiencing ongoing domestic violence, torture, and slavery. You are more likely to develop CPTSD if you experienced trauma at a young age, the trauma lasted a long time, escape or rescue were unlikely, or you were harmed by somebody close to you. People who experience CPTSD have many of the same symptoms as those with PTSD, but you may also struggle with a host of additional symptoms such as:
- difficulty controlling your emotions
- re-experiencing intense emotions when triggered
- ‘spacing out’, feeling disconnected from your body or your mind
- struggling with relationships and friendships
- feeling very hostile or distrustful towards the world
- persistent feelings of sadness, emptiness or hopelessness
- feeling as if you are permanently damaged or worthless
- intense feelings of guilt and shame
- feeling as if you are completely different from other people
- regular suicidal feelings.
Psychologists at Altum Health can provide trauma focused therapy for those people who are experiencing the long-term effects of trauma. In addition to Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), we have trauma specialists on our team who provide therapies such as Eye Movement Desensitisation Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR), Sensorimotor Psychotherapy and Schema Therapy.