Understanding Psychological Trauma
Psychological trauma occurs when a person has been exposed to a significant life event that involves threat to life or physical well-being and creates extreme emotions of horror, terror and/or helplessness. Many different events can be considered traumatic, and witnessing a traumatic event occur to someone else can also leave an individual suffering from psychological trauma. Events which are commonly associated with psychological trauma include, but are not limited to: assault (sexual and non-sexual), domestic violence, natural disasters, exposure to war, motor vehicle accidents, industrial accidents, and domestic accidents. Military and emergency services personnel are at particular risk for developing psychological trauma as a result of the risky situations in which they work regularly.
A number of different reactions can occur as a result of a traumatic event and often depend on whether or not the trauma is a one-off event (e.g. car accident) or cumulative over time (e.g. a police officer witnessing many different traumatic events and being threatened over the course of a long career). Symptoms that can be expected that are associated with psychological trauma include:
- Poor sleep
- Being unable to stop thinking about the event, even when you don’t want to
- Feeling jumpy or on edge
- Trying to avoid thinking or talking about the event
- Feeling anxious and frightened
- Feeling restless or agitated
- Being unable to concentrate
- Trying to avoid people, places or situations that remind you of the event
- Feeling emotionally numb and/or shut off from others
- Feeling depressed and/or guilty
- Withdrawing from others
- Feeling confused or overwhelmed
In addition to the above symptoms, there are a variety of associated problems that a person can experience as a result of psychological trauma including relationship problems, communication problems, social withdrawal, excessive use of alcohol or other drugs to cope, decline in work performance, sleep problems, and general negative impact on quality of life.
Many people who experience a traumatic event may feel a combination of these symptoms which are initially very intense but gradually subside with time. For some people, these symptoms do not improve over time and professional assistance is helpful. As psychological trauma can be very complex, specialised treatment is required to ensure the vast array of symptoms and associated problems are treated appropriately. Mental health practitioners play an integral role in the treatment of psychological trauma. Alliance Psychology represents a group of practitioners who have specialised training and/or experience in the area of trauma and can provide cutting-edge treatment to assist with the above issues.