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Trauma is the psychological and emotional response to situations of extreme stress that overwhelms our ability to cope.

The negative situations can be a one off event or repeated situations. Trauma can trigger when there is a significant threat to our physical or psychological well-being.


Our sense of security and safety can be shattered with trauma, making us feel vulnerable and helpless.


Trauma affects us psychological and physiologically. 

Examples of situations that can cause trauma include: natural disasters (bush fires, floods), war,  childhood abuse,  physical assault, illness, sports injury, car crash incidents, chronic pain, difficult childbirth, domestic violence, the discovery of a life-threatening illness or disabling condition, suicide or death of a family member or friend (including pets), or a serious workplace or motor vehicle accident. 


A situation or event will more likely trigger trauma if:

  • It was caused by a person
  • You were unprepared for it
  • You felt helpless or powerless to prevent it
  • It happened unexpectedly
  • You had an intense emotional reaction 
  • You were unable to have emotions or feelings
  • It happened repeatedly
  • It was very cruel
  • It happened in childhood

Situations do not have to include physical harm to cause trauma.


Situations that leave us feeling overwhelmed and alone such as workplace harassment or bullying, witnessing a traumatic event, divorce, parental alienation, the break up of a significant relationship, or public ridicule can cause trauma.


Physiologically, we react to such experiences in the same way as we would to physical harm. 


Everyone’s reaction to a traumatic situation is different. The same situation that causes severe distress in one may have little impact on another.


But immediately after the event, shock and denial are typical. Some people may minimise the impact, thinking they will just get over it with time, but trauma symptoms may take weeks or months to surface.


Symptoms may can be physical (body symptoms), cognitive (thinking), behavioural (things we do) and emotional (feelings). 


Physical symptoms may include:

  • Racing heartbeat
  • Aches and pains, headaches or nausea
  • Disturbed sleep or insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Excessive alertness, on the look-out for signs of danger
  • Being easily startled
  • Cognitive (thinking) symptoms may include:
  • Intrusive or repetitive thoughts and memories
  • Flashbacks or visual images of the event
  • Nightmares
  • Poor concentration and memory
  • Disorientation
  • Confusion

Behavioural symptoms may Include: 

  • Avoidance of places or activities that are reminders of the event
  • Social anxiety, withdrawal and isolation
  • Loss of interest in normal activities
  • Self-medication with alcohol or drugs

Emotional symptoms may Include:

  • Fear
  • Numbness and detachment
  • Depression
  • Guilt
  • Anger, mood swings and irritalbility
  • Anxiety and panic or panic attacks


How can Counselling Assist your trauma?


Because trauma affects your sense of safety and trust, the re establishment of a trusting relationship with at least one person is a vitally important step in your treatment and healing.


You want to know that your Counsellor has the ability to hear your story in a safe and confidential space.


Sometimes, this may mean sitting with painful and uncomfortable truths that you have told no one, as you probably thought no one would understand or are able to relate or even tolerate.


You also want to know that your Counsellor can really listen, sit with your strong emotions and you will feel validated.


In discussing your trauma with a counsellor you will not be pressured in any way and you will be able to travel at your pace and take steps when you are ready towards your healing.