Trauma occurs in many different forms and is a uniquely personal experience in life. Several people can see or experience the same issues and have different reactions both immediately as well as for weeks, months and years later.
By far the most basic definition, trauma is a deeply disturbing or distressing type of event or experience. It is not necessary to actually be involved in the event, or to witness the event, for the distress of the event to cause difficulties. Seeing pictures, hearing graphic details, or working with people who have had these extremely tragic situations in their life can result in trauma for the previously uninvolved individual.
Over time, the understanding of trauma from a psychological perspective has evolved. In the not too distant past trauma that didn’t involve significant injury or death were often dismissed as not being significant, and certainly not capable of contributing to a diagnosis of PTSD or Post-traumatic Stress Disorder.
What is Trauma?
That thinking is no longer prevalent in mental health treatment. Psychotherapists and counsellors routinely work with clients with trauma from issues such as divorce, family violence, survivors of child abuse or abuse in the family of origin, sudden and unexpected loss of a relationship or job, death of a loved one or pet or any number of other issues.
Often being a victim of a crime, living through a major disaster or those that are continually exposed to hatred, discrimination, poverty, racism or other forms of verbal or physical abuse such as bullying can also suffer the effects of trauma.
Trauma can occur from a single event, such as witness a terrible car accident, a house fire or the death of person. It could also be a result of a home invasion or an attempted assault. It may also occur over multiple events, and can be more significant and problematic when those multiple events happen over a short period of time in one’s life.
Situations such as suddenly losing everything, being deeply shamed or humiliated in public, or having sudden and unwelcome changes in life can also create a type of situational trauma for some people.
In essence, trauma occurs when a person is unable to process the reality of what happened. They no longer see the world as a safe place, and they feel helpless, hopeless, and out of control with no way to gain back those feelings of safety, security and control.
Signs of Trauma
While different events can trigger trauma for different individuals, the signs of trauma impacting on your mental state are very consistent. They will include one or more of the following changes in thinking and behaviour:
- Anger and irritability
- Anxiety and fear not present prior
- Problems with insomnia
- Extreme mental and physical fatigue
- Withdrawal from social situations
- Guilt and self-blame
- Aches and pains
- Easily startled, increase heart rate and breathing
- Tense and unable to relax
- Hypervalent behaviour that be described as paranoid
- Use of alcohol or drugs to attempt to alleviate the tension and anxiety
- Flashbacks and inability to stop replaying the incident or incidents over and over
These symptoms may seem to come and go, but then will become more prevalent without treatment. Reoccurring trauma can rapidly escalate these systems or add new symptoms to those experienced.
Seeing a professional psychotherapist in London who has experience in working with trauma can provide the support you need to examine the situation, analyse and process what occurred, and develop effective coping mechanisms to address future issues.
Philippe Jacquet, as a leading psychotherapist and counsellor working with trauma survivors, provides a holistic and integrated approach to treating both the trauma as well as and concurrent issues such as depression or anxiety.
For trauma survivors art therapy, a specialisation of Mr. Jacquet, is a very beneficial component to an integrated approach to treatment. Through the use of drawing, painting and sculpting clients can express their inner fears and anxieties in a way that may be extremely challenging with traditional talk therapies. Through this type of expression, the psychotherapist can understand the client, and together they can explore how to process the trauma in a way that will prevent it from impacting life today and in the future.
Treatment for trauma, including PTSD, may also include specific treatment options such as hypnotherapy, relaxation training, cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) or a very specialized treatment known as EMDR or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, a groundbreaking technique for addressing PTSD.