What is it?
Recent research has revealed that emotional trauma can result from a wider variety of incidents than originally thought. Events varying from serious long term emotional,physical, and sexual abuse, sexual assault as well as such common occurrences as an auto accident, the breakup of a significant relationship, a humiliating or deeply disappointing experience, the discovery of a life-threatening illness or disabling condition, or other similar situations. Traumatizing events can take a serious emotional toll on those involved, even if the event did not cause physical damage.
Regardless of its source, an emotional trauma contains three common elements:
• it was unexpected;
• the person was unprepared; and
• there was nothing the person could do to prevent it from happening.
It is not the event that determines whether something is traumatic to someone, but the individual's experience of the event. And it is not predictable how a given person will react to a particular event. For someone who is used to being in control of emotions and events, it may be surprising - even embarrassing - to discover that something like an accident or job loss can be so debilitating.
What causes trauma?
Psychological trauma can result from events we have long recognized as traumatic, including:
• natural disasters (earthquakes, fires, floods, hurricanes, etc.)
• physical assault, including rape, incest, molestation, domestic abuse
• serious bodily harm
• serious accidents such as automobile or other high-impact scenarios
• experiencing or witnessing horrific injury, carnage or fatalities
Other potential sources of psychological trauma are often overlooked including:
• falls or sports injuries
• surgery, particularly emergency, and especially in first 3 years of life
• serious illness, especially when accompanied by very high fever
• birth trauma
• hearing about violence to or sudden death of someone close
In addition, traumatic stress in childhood that influences the brain is caused by poor or inadequate relationship with a primary caretaker. Sources of this developmental or relational trauma include the following:
• forced separation very early in life from primary caregiver;
• chronic mis-attunement of caregiver to child's attachment signals ("mal-attachment") or reasons such as physical or mental illness, depression or grief.
It is acknowledged that early life trauma creates a vulnerability for experiencing future traumatic responses.
What are the symptoms of trauma?
There are common effects or conditions that may occur following a traumatic event. Sometimes these responses can be delayed, for months or even years after the event. Often, people do not even initially associate their symptoms with the precipitating trauma. The following are symptoms that may result from a more commonplace, unresolved trauma, especially if there were earlier, overwhelming life experiences:
• Eating disturbances (more or less than usual)
• Sleep disturbances (more or less than usual)
• Sexual dysfunction
• Low energy
• Chronic, and unexplained pain
• Depression, spontaneous crying, despair and hopelessness
• Panic attacks
• Compulsive and obsessive behaviors
• Feeling out of control
• Irritability, anger and resentment
• Emotional numbness
• Withdrawal from normal routine and/or relationships
• Memory lapses, especially about the trauma
• Difficulty making decisions
• Decreased ability to concentrate
• Feeling distracted
The following additional symptoms of emotional trauma are commonly associated with a severe precipitating event, such as a natural disaster, exposure to war, rape, assault, violent crime, major car or airplane crashes, or child abuse. Extreme symptoms can also occur as a delayed reaction to the traumatic event.
Re-experiencing the Trauma
• intrusive and unwanted thoughts
• flashbacks or nightmares
• sudden floods of emotions or images related to the traumatic event
Emotional Numbing and Avoidance
• avoidance of situations that resemble the initial event
• detachment from self and others
•feelings of guilt
• reactions of grief
• an altered sense of time
• hyper-vigilance, jumpiness, an extreme sense of being "on guard"
• overreactions, including sudden unprovoked anger
• general anxiety
• obsessions with death and often a sense of your life being forshortened
*Based on http://www.healingresources.info/