What is trauma and its causes?
Sometimes in life we may face very frightening situations which we can find very overwhelming and distressful. It may be a situation where something is directly happening to you or an incident you witness. For example, being physically harmed by someone or seeing a road traffic accident. When the feelings after an event continue to impact our thoughts and sensations, we call it trauma.
Trauma involves re-living an event long after it happened, as though it is still happening and could have a significant impact on your day-to-day life.
Trauma can be caused by a number of incidents including:
- Receiving bad or shocking news
- A near death experience
- A natural disaster such as flooding or fires
- Difficult experiences in early childhood
- Physical or sexual violence
- Witnessing a violent incident or assault
- Seeing someone die
Trauma varies from person to person therefore not everyone who experiences or witnesses these incidents are affected the same way.
How do I know if I am traumatised?
The feelings of distress may not occur right after the traumatic event. After the incident you may feel absolutely fine and it may take a while before you feel impacted by what you experienced or witnessed. It may take months or even years later before you develop any noticeable emotional and/or physical reactions. Some of the signs are:
- Sleeping difficulties
- Problems in concentration
- Nightmares connected to the trauma
- Intrusive thoughts
- Always being prepared for something negative to happen / feeling a tense and anxious dread (hyper vigilance)
- No longer feeling pleasure doing activities you used to enjoy
- Feeling low of energy and demotivated.
- Feeling that you are to blame for the traumatic incident.
How to look after yourself
After you’ve experienced a traumatic situation, you can build coping strategies:
- Talk to a counsellor to help you process your trauma and make sense of the difficult experience.
- Learn some grounding techniques. Tell yourself that you are safe, name the items around you that you can see, hold an object that reminds you that you are present.
- Create your own self-care box which includes items that help you to ground yourself when you’re feeling triggered.
- Write down your negative thoughts and feelings then tear it up
- Listen to music or watch a TV show that puts you in a good mood.
- Try breathing techniques to help you feel calm. Download the Calm app for guided breathing exercises or you can watch a YouTube clip.
- If you’re feeling overwhelmed with emotions and need someone to talk to, you can get in touch with 24/7 support services such as Samaritans (116 123) and Childline (0800 1111).