What is Trauma?

Trauma is the response to a disturbing or deeply distressing event that results in significant emotional distress. This subjective emotional experience feels overwhelming and impairs our ability to cope, results in intense feelings of helplessness, diminishes our sense of self and our ability to feel a full range of emotions and experiences. The exposure to a traumatic event threatens our sense of safety and security.


Traumatic events may be experiences which are life threatening or present a significant threat to our physical or psychological wellbeing. Everyone experiences. The response is different for everyone involved.


Everyone will have a varying reaction to potentially traumatic experiences. Most individuals recover with the support of family and friends and do not experience long-term problems. Not everyone who experiences a traumatic event will suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).


Whilst PTSD is well-known to be caused by a traumatic event that involves a natural disaster, physical or sexual assault, accidents, combat, or witnessing death or injury, any type of distressing event that results in the person questioning their beliefs and assumptions about safety and trust can result in trauma.


What can cause trauma?


An individual may experience trauma due to a particular distressing event, or prolonged exposure to stress. Instances may include bullying and workplace harassment, or an unexpected event such as a sudden death of a family member or loss of a close friend.


In addition, adults may also identify with exposure to one or more traumas over the course of their childhood years. Adults may reflect on their earlier years and notice the development of certain behaviours or reactions that served a positive function in earlier years, however, has persisted into their adult years and begun to affect their daily lives after the events have ended.


What is childhood trauma?


Childhood trauma may result from exposure to behaviours, or a lack of certain behaviours that have disrupted a child’s sense of safety. The disruption to the child’s basic needs of safety and nurturing can lead to developing severe trauma in later life. Trauma in adulthood may result from unstable family environment, physical or sexual abuse, domestic violence, and/or neglect. Individuals react to trauma in different ways from physical to psychological.


Children who suffered from traumatic stress may display:


> intense and ongoing emotional upset

> depressive symptoms or anxiety

> behavioural changes

> difficulties with self-regulation

> difficulties with concentration

> problems relating to others

> difficulty forming attachments

> regression or loss of previously acquired skills

> attention and academic difficulties

> nightmares and distressing dreams

> difficulty sleeping

> difficulties with eating

> physical symptoms such as aches and pains


Older children and adults may adopt a range of maladaptive coping strategies that serve as an avoidant function to certain triggers in life. These maladaptive coping strategies may include the use of abuse of drugs or alcohol, behaving in risky ways, or engage in unhealthy sexual activity.


Psychological symptoms may include: 


> anger, irritability, mood swings

> shock, denial, or disbelief

> anxiety and fear

> guilt, shame, self-blame

> feeling disconnected, detached or estranged from people in your life

> sadness, or hopelessness

> negative self-image, of other people, and the world

> difficulties feeling happy, loved, or satisfied


Physical symptoms may include:


> sleep problems and nightmares

> flashbacks of distressing thought and feelings

> intrusive memories

> fatigue, difficulty concentrating

> racing heartbeat

> agitation and impatience

> aches and pains

> muscle tension

> recklessness or self-destructive

> startle easily and jumpy with loud noises


How Positive Wellbeing Psychology can help?

At Positive Wellbeing Psychology, our objective is to match you with a psychologist that is trained in various psychological techniques suited for trauma counselling, which are found to be highly efficacious in improving our mood and interpersonal relationships.

Make An Appointment

Telehealth and In-Person appointments available with one of our Melbourne Psychologist during standard business hours, after-hours, and on weekends.

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Our Australian Registered Psychologists are experienced and trained in a range of evidence-based treatment for trauma counselling.