Trauma & Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Unfortunately, some people will experience traumatic events during the course of their lives. Very frightening, distressing or life threatening events may result in both physical and psychological injuries. Most people who experience a traumatic event will recover over time with the support of friends and families and will be able to go on to live a meaningful life with no long-term problems. However, some people will continue to experience ongoing distress as a result of the traumatic event. This is called post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Everyone’s reaction to traumatic events, the same event may cause different individuals little to no stress or significant distress and ongoing difficulties. Different individuals can also experience distress immediately following a traumatic event, or problems may develop much later.

Traumatic events are experiences which pose a significant threat to an individual’s life, physical or psychological wellbeing. Examples of traumatic events include natural disasters, acts of violence, interpersonal violence and serious motor vehicle accidents. Traumatic events can either directly involve an individual, or the individual may witness the event. Depending on an individuals personal experiences, events which appear to be less severe can sometimes trigger a trauma response.

Symptoms of trauma can be categorised into the broader categories of physical, cognitive (thinking/thoughts), behavioural and emotional symptoms. Every person will react differently to experiences of trauma.

Some examples of things which a person may experience in response to trauma include:

Physical symptoms

  • Easily startled
  • Fatigue
  • Exhaustion
  • Disrupted or disturbed sleep
  • Aches and pains
  • Muscle tension
  • Excessive alertness to potential danger

Cognitive symptoms

  • Nightmares
  • Disorientation
  • Confusion
  • Poor concentration
  • Poor memory
  • Intrusive thoughts or memories of the traumatic event
  • Visual images of the events

Cognitive symptoms

  • Avoidance of places or activities that are reminders of the event
  • Social withdrawal
  • Social isolation
  • Loss of interest in activities normally found enjoyable

Emotional symptoms

Some reaction to traumatic events are natural and healthy ways of the healing process, adjusting to a powerful event and making sense out of what has happened. However if you find symptoms experienced as a result of a traumatic event are ongoing and causing stress, then psychological assistance can be helpful.

Trauma focussed psychological interventions focus on providing education, stress management techniques and helping an individual to cope with feared situations and distressing memories.

In some occasions, individuals suffering from a trauma response to a traumatic event will go on to develop more serious conditions such as anxiety disorders, drug and alcohol problems, depression or post-traumatic stress disorder.

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

PTSD is a clinical disorder that can develop in some people after a response to trauma.

PTSD involves three main groups of symptoms:

  1. Re-experiencing the trauma – via intrusive memories, nightmares or flashbacks
  2. Avoidance of reminders and numbing of emotional responsiveness
  3. Hyperarousal – feeling jumpy or on edge

PTSD is very distressing for the individual experiencing it, it can lead to serious ongoing problems and difficulties functioning as part of a normal life. Individuals who suffer from PTSD can experience disruptions in work performance and attendance, social and family relationships, performing daily tasks and engaging in appropriate self-care activities. Symptoms resulting from PTSD in general do not resolve on their own, as such psychological assistance if often necessary to assist a person in their recovery.

Getting help

If you have experienced a traumatic event and are having difficulties coping, or are experiencing any unhelpful or worrisome symptoms as a result, you can contact us at Strategic Psychology to arrange an appointment with one of our trained psychologists. No referral is needed to make an appointment.

stressed weed growing through crack in road