A trauma is a terrifying event that happens to you or that you witness. It can be an event that happens one time, or a series of events or experiences that happens over an extended period of time. It is not the facts of the event that determine whether or not it was traumatic, but the subjective emotional experience of the event instead. Examples of traumatic events are as varied and numerous as there are individuals on earth. A few examples could be a car accident; a house fire; an unexpected job loss; a sexual assualt; witnessing a crime; a difficult labor and delivery; etc.
What impact does it have?
The impact that trauma has on any of us can also vary quite a bit, but it almost always involves losing a feeling of safety/security, and feeling out of control. Trauma has a physiological impact on us, as well as a psychological impact. This simply means that our bodies are impacted by trauma just as much as our mind. Generally when we experience a trauma our bodies stress response is triggered as part of our survival instinct. This is not problematic during the trauma because it usually helps us to survive those experiences. But it can become problematic if our bodies remain in the stress response for too long after the trauma, or if that same response gets triggered even when we aren't experiencing any trauma. This can lead to a diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
What are the symptoms of PTSD?
Intrusive Memories: recurrent unwanted thoughts about the trauma; reliving the event like a falshback; upsetting dreams about the event
Negative Changes; negative feelings about yourself; difficulty maintaining close relationships; lack of interest in hobbies or activities; memory problems; trouble sleeping; trouble focusing or concentrating
Avoidance;trying to avoid thinking or talking about the event; avoiding places, people, or activities that remind you of the event
Emotional Changes:irritability; angry outbursts; feeling hopeless; feeling always "on guard"; feeling overwhelming guilt or shame;
What is the treatment for PTSD?
PTSD is an anxiety disorder. Anxiety at its root is not a bad, but when we are unable to cope or manage our anxiety, then it can become problematic. Treatment for PTSD is similar to treatment for other anxiety disorders. It focuses on a person re-establishing a sense of safety, and developing healthy and productive tools to cope with their feelings, and physiological responses to past traumas. Some techniques of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy ar eeffective for PTSD in that they help a person focus on their thoughts in order to manage their feelings and behaviors. Mindfulness and meditation techniques are also quite effective in treating PTSD. Mindfulness techniques can help ground a person who is feeling triggered by intrusive thoughts, or on guard against threats that are not currently happening. Meditations can help a person learn how to counter their stress response with a relaxation response in order to feel more in control of their emotions. Individual or group therapy using any of these techniques is effective in helping a person to heal from a trauma.