Trauma is an emotional response to a terrible event. Often, people will experience shock and denial immediately after the event. Over time, symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares, physical symptoms such as headaches or nausea, and unpredictable emotions. These feelings can be confusing and scary, but are very normal. If the impact of the trauma is not processed in a healthy way, the symptoms can reoccur throughout one’s life. This is especially true if you experience another event that brings about similar feelings.
Trauma can also be experienced when witnessing serious injury to or the death of someone else or when faced with threats of serious injury to yourself or others. Also, exposure to trauma can occur repeatedly over long periods of time. These kind of experiences can result in intense feelings of fear, loss of trust in others, decreased sense of personal safety, guilt and shame. An example of this is when a child is a victim of abuse.
Children and youth usually do not have the appropriate coping skills to deal with this kind of trauma. They may begin to experience disturbed sleep, difficulty concentrating, anger and irritability, withdrawal, repeated and intrusive thoughts and extreme distress. This is especially true if they are confronted by anything that reminds them of their traumatic experiences. These children are at risk for conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, and behavioural disorders. Adult survivors of traumatic events may have difficulty in establishing fulfilling relationships or holding a steady job.
Recovery from a traumatic event looks different for everyone. Children and youth often respond to expressive forms of therapy such as play, art and sandtray therapy. Adults will often benefit from the use of mindfulness techniques and developing self-compassion. One common goal for anyone who has experienced a trauma is to help them develop an inner sense of safety and security. Remember, it is never too late for anyone to seek help when experiencing the impacts of a traumatic event.