Trauma - Oldcastle Counselling Centre

Trauma

What is Trauma?

Trauma occurs when the intensity of a negative experience is so overwhelming that we are unable to process it properly.

The negative experience may be physical or emotional/psychological in nature. The experience can be sustained or a once off. Examples of traumatic experiences are:

  • Childhood sexual assault or abuse
  • Rape
  • Violent assault
  • Major loss/death
  • Bullying
  • Road accident

A traumatic experience can have a negative impact on the person long after the incident has passed. This is because during a traumatic experience our brains may go into a fight, flight or freeze mode. This is the brain’s way of helping us to survive an experience that is otherwise too overwhelming to manage.

This fight/flight/freeze mode can inhibit a large amount of our normal functioning. As a result, we may not be able to make sense of or process what has happened to us. One may carry or hold the emotions related to the event long after the event has passed. The person becomes stuck in the traumatic event. As such, a person may overreact to seemingly harmless triggers that may remind them of the original traumatic event, for example, a loud noise.

Other symptoms can include:

  • Anxiety.
  • Depression.
  • Physical sensations like unexplained pain, sweating, nausea.
  • Flashbacks, nightmares.
  • Phobias as a result of the traumatic experience. For example, fear of public speaking as a result of being ridiculed by a group.
  • Avoidance of situations that remind you of the traumatic event. This is also tied in with phobias.
  • Hyperarousal (or feeling on edge) – irritability, insomnia, outbursts of anger.
  • A generalized feeling of mistrust in others – in particular, childhood abuse will generally have an impact on an individual’s ability to maintain positive relationships, as they grow older.
  • Tendency to continually re-engage in experiences that allows one to relive the trauma again. People do this under the unconscious belief that if they re-experience the trauma, they will make sense of it and the experience will then cease to be traumatic. This is why children that were either physically or emotionally abused often end up in abusive relationships.
  • Self harming – this may be an attempt to re-enact or replicate the experience of the trauma.
  • PTSD – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. This is the psychiatric term given to someone who intensely experiences all or some of the above symptoms over a prolonged period.

The recovery process involves rewiring the brain back to its original setting. This can be achieved using a relatively new type of therapy called EMDR Therapy or Eye Movement Desensitisation Reprocessing.
EMDR has a direct effect on the way the brain processes information. Following EMDR therapy, a person no longer relives the sounds, images or memories of a previous traumatic event in the same way it was originally experienced. It is a physiologically based therapy that helps one to view disturbing experiences in a new and less distressing way.

 

To learn more about EMDR, visit the following page.

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