How Can I Tell if I am Traumatised?

Trauma is the emotional, psychological, physical or psyche response to an extreme event. While trauma is a normal reaction to a horrible event, the effects can be severe and interfere with our ability to live a healthy life. These events may have very little impact on one person but can lead to significant distress in another. The potential impact may be related to the suddenness of the event, mental and physical health, presence of coping skills, past or present life stressors, personality types and availability of social and emotional support at the time of the event. 

MRI and CT scans of the brain are able to observe the brain and reveal that trauma changes both the structure and the function of the brain.

What is a common traumatic event

Traumatic events can be caused by a singular occasion or from ongoing stresses
• Natural disasters such as fires, earthquakes, tornado, and hurricanes
• Interpersonal violence like rape, child abuse, or the suicide of a loved one or friend, witnessing an act of violence, domestic violence
• Accidents, falls or injuries
• Acts of violence such as an armed robbery, war, or terrorism
• Relationship break ups or divorce
• Surgery
Death of a loved one
• Diagnosis of a life threatening or disabling condition.

Signs and Symptoms of Trauma

• Intrusive thoughts of the event that may occur out of the blue
• Nightmares
• Visual images of the event
• Recurrent memories and suicidal or painful thoughts
• Poor concentration & loss of memory
• Disorientation or confusion
• Mood swings
• Avoidance of activities or places that trigger memories of the event
• Social isolation and withdrawal
• Lack of interest in previously-enjoyable activities
• High terror alert – a car backfiring, seeing a uniformed person, a room without windows
• Unpredictable emotions
• Strained relationships
• Easily startled, edginess
• Headaches
• Nausea
• Tremendous fatigue and exhaustion
• Tachycardia
• Sexual dysfunction
• Changes in sleeping and eating patterns
• Faintness, dizziness or weakness
• Aches and pains throughout the body
• Extreme alertness; looking out for warnings of potential danger
• Overwhelming fear
• Frequent sadness, crying, depression, feeling bad
• Obsessive and compulsive behaviours
• Detachment from other people and emotions
• Emotional numbing
• Guilt & shame– especially if one lived while others perished
• Disbelief, emotional shock
• Irritability, anger
• Anxiety or panic attacks
• Feeling fearful, nervous or restless

Effects of Untreated Psychological Trauma

• Substance abuse – 25 % of people experience trauma before the age of 16 are much more likely to become addicted to drugs.
• Alcoholism
• Sexual problems
• Inability to maintain healthy close relationships or choose appropriate people to be friends with
• Hostility
• Constant arguments with loved ones
• Social withdrawal
• Constant feelings of being threatened
• Self-destructive or impulsive behaviours
• Uncontrollable reactive thoughts
• Inability to make healthy occupational or lifestyle choices
• Dissociative symptoms
• Feelings of depression, shame, hopelessness, or despair, ineffective
• Feeling as though one is permanently damaged
• Loss of former belief systems
• Compulsive behavioural patterns


Everyone will respond to trauma differently, some will have no ill effects others may suffer an immediate and acute effect. Still others may not show signs of stress until sometime after the event, understanding the emotions and normal responses that follow a traumatic event can help cope with feelings, thoughts and behaviours. This can involve Counselling, group processing, Hypnosis, writing, drawing, and meditation, expressing physically e.g dance, exercise, yoga or any other form of express that is useful.

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