Trauma of any kind can cause unsettling feelings & reactions. Making sense of your responses can help you manage. I can offer a safe place to explore what has happened to you and help you come to terms with difficult feelings.
A traumatic incident is usually considered to be one involving actual or threatened death or serious injury. Examples range from major disasters such as earthquakes or train crashes, in which many people may be killed or injured, through to incidents such as a road accident, rape, mugging or sudden death of a loved one. An incident that leaves someone feeling helpless and totally unable to cope may be perceived as traumatic. Witnessing or experiencing trauma usually creates feelings of extreme fear, horror or helplessness. However, people respond to trauma differently. One person may be traumatised by an event while someone else is barely affected. An apparently minor incident can be traumatic to some people and how people react to trauma has nothing to do with being ‘strong’ or ‘weak’, but will depend on a number of factors, such as psychological make-up, prior experiences and access to support.
Individuals react to trauma in very different ways. If you have witnessed or been involved in a traumatic event, you may notice changes in how you feel (emotionally and physically), think and behave.
Emotional reactions may include:
•Feelings of numbness and unreality •Fear / anxiety / loss of confidence •Tearfulness •Feeling low or depressed •Sadness and feelings of loss
•Anger •Guilt (feeling responsible for what happened, or survivor guilt at having survived if others did not)
Physical reactions may include:
•A change in sleep patterns – sleeplessness or sleeping too much •Feeling shaky/panicky •Headaches /Stomach upset / Racing heart and rapid breathing
•Lack of interest in relationships/sex •A change in appetite – not feeling like eating, or eating more than usual
Thinking may be affected in some of the following ways:
•Poor concentration and memory •Intrusive memories of what happened •Nightmares or upsetting dreams
•Confusion or disorientation •Difficulty making decisions
You may behave differently, for example:
•Avoiding places or actions associated with the trauma (eg not driving if you have been in a road accident)
•Being irritable with people close to you, or withdrawing from people
•Being over-cautious or hyper vigilant: concerned about your own safety and that of people close to you
These are all normal reactions to a traumatic event. They do not mean that you are going mad, coping badly, or not being ‘strong’ enough. Some people experience a number of these reactions, some only a few. Sometimes it can be hard to identify what you are feeling; or you may find your mood changes quite rapidly. Some people are quite numb at first, and it takes a few days or even weeks for them to feel the impact of what has happened. To begin with, you may find it hard to get what you have seen or experienced out of your head. Although this is very distressing, it is a natural response as your mind tries to make sense of what has occurred. Your reactions to a traumatic event may initially be very strong and may make it difficult to get on with everyday life. For many people, however, the memories and feelings gradually become less intrusive over time.
Managing responses to trauma - Just as people respond differently to trauma, so people find different things helpful. Some people are able to focus on their studies and stop thinking about the incident for a while; other people find it impossible to concentrate for more than a few minutes. People also vary in how long it takes them to get over the effects of a traumatic experience. There is no right way of coping. If possible, it is best to ‘go with the flow’ of how you are feeling, and try to think about what you need – rather than what you (or other people) think you should be doing.
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