Traumatic events and trauma
What are traumatic events?
Traumatic events are any extreme or abnormal circumstances that could cause a traumatic reaction. Examples of traumatic events include events such as disasters, wars and death (actual or threatened) but can also include:
- car accidents
- assaults of any kind - physical, sexual or psychological
- serious illness in your family or yourself
- being threatened with harm
- being witness to an event that caused someone harm
- having had a "near miss" or being almost involved in any of these type of events
- being exposed to any of the above through the media or through the accounts of others
- being reminded of any traumatic personal experiences as a result of exposure to any of the above situations.
What are trauma responses?
Trauma responses are normal reactions to abnormal or extreme circumstances. Your body automatically responds to the event the best way it can. It will protect you from overload and may shut down in different ways: i.e. memory loss. You may experience a range of emotions and thoughts that are unexplainable and at times you may feel out of control.
It is important that you recognise these reactions, taking care of yourself as best you can. Making contact with the people who can help you is the fastest and easiest way to overcome the reactions you are experiencing. However, your recovery time will vary according to the nature, type and intensity of the trauma. The process could take longer than you expect and the symptoms can last days, weeks or months.
A counsellor can assist you with a number of strategies to cope with the symptoms and knows how to help you step on to the path of recovery.
Typical reactions to trauma
It is quite normal for people to experience emotional aftershocks when they have passed through a horrible event. Typical reactions to trauma are summarised as Emotional, Physical, Cognitive and Behavioural symptoms. Some examples of common symptoms are below:
- increased anxiety or fear
- irritability or restlessness
- sadness, moodiness or more crying than usual
- feelings of helplessness or hopelessness
- feelings of numbness or detachment
- intrusive thoughts, nightmares or flashbacks
- feeling isolated from friends, family or others
- 'survivor guilt' or feelings of self blame
- stomach aches or nausea
- feeling slowed down or fatigued
- difficulty concentrating
- confused or distracted thoughts
- memory difficulties
- becoming hyperactive or behaving irritably
- withdrawing or avoiding others
- needing to talk about the events that affected you
During the time of recovery if you experience any of the following you should seek professional help:
- If you are feeling suicidal or had thoughts of contemplating suicide.
- If you find that the symptoms you experience are intruding into your daily life so that you cannot complete normal tasks.
- If you find yourself regularly avoiding situations that remind you of past events.
If you are experiencing a number of the above reactions seek help and remember there are things you can do to help yourself.
- Keep reminding yourself that your reactions are a normal response to the events you have experienced.
- Talk to someone you trust. This may be a friend, family member or a counsellor but don't face things alone . Getting support early may avoid further distress later on.
- Manage your sleeping so that you have adequate rest.
- Take time to do things you enjoy that relaxes you and allow your body to respond to its changing needs: i.e. cry when you need to, direct angry feelings in creative ways by going to the gym for a workout or spend time with your friends.
- Take some time and gradually begin to return to normal routines.
- You need to manage your general stress levels at this time. Be aware that reactions may be more intense at pressure times during the year such as exam and assignment times, or any times where you have increased demands on you.
Taking it further
Specific information related to the current events in Victoria
Further information on Trauma
Information on common reactions