Children, teens and adults can experience trauma after exposure to a violent, dramatic or overwhelming event such as physical or sexual assault, war, natural disasters such as bushfires or floods, car accidents etc. Trauma can also occur within our most intimate relationships in response to painful emotional and psychological experiences such as experiences of abuse or neglect, witnessing or experiencing violence within the family, severe bullying.
Traumatic experiences can have a very significant impact physically, cognitively, emotionally and socially. People who have undergone trauma are often jumpy, irritable, have trouble sleeping and concentrating and are continually functioning on elevated levels of arousal. They may have recurring intrusive recollections of the trauma in thoughts, dreams or flashbacks. And they may have a hard time distinguishing new safe situations from the traumatic situation and seek to avoid anything that reminds them of the trauma. Furthermore trauma can play a major role in shaping our belief systems about others, the world and ourselves. Sometimes survivors blame themselves, or feel responsible in some way for traumatic events over which, in reality they had little or no control. Because the physical and emotional symptoms of trauma are very distressing, some people rely on a range of addictive behaviours (drugs, alcohol, risk taking) in attempts to reduce their distress.
Research shows that untreated Post traumatic stress disorder tends to linger. However the good news is that therapy for trauma has developed enormously over the last decades with a range of effective treatments available. Furthermore there is now awareness that trauma can set the stage for growth so that for some following tragedy there can be personal development with a renewed appreciation of being alive, enhanced personal strength and a spiritual deepening. (It even has a name – Post traumatic growth!).
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