Trauma 

DSM-IV-TR; American Psychiatric Association [APA], 2000) specifically defines a trauma as direct personal experience of an event that involves actual or threatened death or serious injury, or other threat to one’s physical integrity; or witnessing an event that involves death, injury, or a threat to the physical integrity of another person; or learning about unexpected or violent death, serious harm, or threat of death or injury experienced by a family member or other close associate. 
 
Traumatic experiences often involve a threat to life or safety, but any situation that leaves you feeling overwhelmed and alone can be traumatic, even if it doesn’t involve physical harm. It’s not the objective facts that determine whether an event is traumatic, but your subjective emotional experience of the event. The more frightened and helpless you feel, the more likely you are to be traumatized. 
 
Emotional and psychological trauma can be caused by single-blow, one-time events, such as an accident, a natural disaster, or a violent attack. Trauma can also stem from ongoing, relentless stress, such as living in a crime-ridden neighbourhood, prolonged work stress or struggling with cancer. 
 
Commonly overlooked causes of emotional and psychological trauma: 
Falls or sports injuries 
Surgery 
Sudden death of someone close 
Car accident 
Breakup of a significant relationship 
A humiliating or deeply disappointing experience 
The discovery of a life threatening illness or a disabling condition 
Job loss 
 
 
An event will most likely lead to emotional or psychological trauma if: 
•It happened unexpectedly 
•You were unprepared for it 
•You felt powerless to prevent it 
•It happened repeatedly 
•Someone was intentionally cruel 
•It happened in childhood 
 
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Symptoms of trauma may include: 
Physical Symptoms 
Increased heart rate 
Churning stomach - Loss of Libido 
Stiff muscles - Loss of appetite 
Slight shaking/trembling - re-experiencing of sensory experiences 
Problems sleeping 
Shallow breathing 
Difficulty regulating hot and cold 
Emotional Symptoms 
Feeling jumpy, increased startle response 
Short tempered, aggressive 
Tearful 
Feelings of guilt – repeated ‘what if’ thoughts 
 
 
Cognitive Symptoms 
Difficulty concentrating - intrusive thoughts 
Difficulty with memory 
Difficulty forming words 
Difficulty making decisions 
Behavioural Symptoms 
Avoiding places or actions - or risk taking 
Avoiding people 
Pushing away loved ones 
Acting aggressively 
Excessive use of alcohol/drugs 
 

Everyday trauma 

If you have experienced trauma, or are experiencing some of the symptoms of trauma due to events in your life, counselling, psychotherapy and arts psychotherapy can all be useful ways of understanding and coming to terms with what has happened. 
Not all potentially traumatic events lead to lasting emotional and psychological damage. Some people rebound quickly from even the most tragic and shocking experiences. Others are devastated by experiences that, on the surface, appear to be less upsetting. 
A number of risk factors make people susceptible to emotional and psychological trauma. People are more likely to be traumatized by a stressful experience if they’re already under a heavy stress load or have recently suffered a series of losses. 
People are also more likely to be traumatized by a new situation if they’ve been traumatized before – especially if the earlier trauma occurred in childhood. 
 
 
 

How to help yourself 

Immediately after the incident: 
Avoid alcohol 
Avoid violent films 
Try to eat small portions 
Drink plenty of water 
Avoid caffeine 
Take a warm bath to help the muscles 
Try gentle exercise, such as walking 
Use deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation 
 
Medium to long term: 
Try to return to a routine as soon as appropriate 
Ease yourself back to the place of the incident (build this up gradually to desensitise the fight or flight system) 
Learn relaxation methods, such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, mindfulness or visualisation techniques 
Seek professional support from me - I can help you with some of these techniques 
 
Other resources: 
Victim Support 
www.victimsupport.org.uk 
0845 3030900 
National charity giving free and confidential help to victims of crime, witnesses, their family, friends and anyone else affected 
 
Combat Stress 
www.combatstress.org.uk 
0800 1381619 (24/7) 
Combat Stress is the UK's leading charity that specialises in the treatment and support of British Armed Forces Veterans who have mental health problems 
 
Veterans Assist Scotland 
www.veterans-assist.org 
0131 5501569 
 
Sudden Death Support Association 
0118 988 8099 
0845 123 5542 
 
Support After Murder & Manslaughter (SAMM) 
www.samm.org.uk 
 
Support and Care After Road Death & Injury (S.C.A.R.D) 
www.scard.org.uk 
0845 872 3440 
 
Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide 
www.sobs.admin.care4free.net 
Helpline: 0844 561 6855