Trauma

Trauma can be defined as any single, multiple, or ongoing extraordinarily distressing or disturbing experiences. Even if you were not directly involved in an alarming situation, you could experience trauma if you have witnessed or have heard repletely such a situation. Hearing repeatedly traumatic situations can lead to what is called vicarious trauma.

Anyone of all ages, cultures, socio-economic status, religious and sexual orientation can experience trauma. It is important to remember that the effect of being traumatized is different for every person. It is not the objective circumstances that determine whether an event or situation is traumatic for someone, but the individual's experience. Trauma can have harmful effects from generation to generation, as in cases of intergenerational trauma.

Traumas are often associated with events like war or natural disasters. However, a traumatic event or situation can be described as any painful life experience that falls beyond the scope of normal human experience. A painful life event should never be interpreted as low traumatic. An event that may not seem very important can have devastating consequences in someone's life. We are unique; life experiences can affect each person differently. A traumatic experience is about the impact this experience has on your life.

Another important aspect of trauma is that someone can be deeply affected by a trauma without being aware of it. A person can even identify himself or herself with symptoms related to trauma. For example, a person can often feel angry and think this is his or her temperament. A person can identify himself or herself as "bad" because of behaviours that are destructive to themselves and others without knowing that the cause of these behaviours can be the effects of trauma. People may feel uncomfortable in social situations, thinking they are an embarrassed or introverted person, yet suffer from social anxiety, which may have been caused by a traumatic situation such as bullying. Traumas are not about weakness or incapacity to handle difficulties. Trauma can be described as unprocessed painful memories stored in the brain that cause damaging effects in someone's life.

Trauma can lead to :

Emotional 

  • Sadness

  • Anger, irritability

  • Shame

  • Guilt

  • Self-blame

  • Feeling hopeless, helpless

  • Feeling overwhelmed, feeling confused

  • Fear

  • Denial

 

Psychological

  • Depression

  • Anxiety disorders

  • PTSD

  • Dissociative disorders

 

Behavioural 

  • Substance abuse

  • Alcohol abuse

  • Suicidal behaviour

  • Compulsive sexual behaviour such as compulsive masturbation, persistent use of pornography, multiple sexual partners

  • Self-destructive behaviours

  • Violence and aggression

 

Physical

  • Affect the immune system

  • Increases the risk of heart disease

  • Increases the risk if cancer

  • Blood pressure

  • Nausea

  • Headaches

  • Nightmares

  • Insomnia

  • Fatigue

  • Muscle tension

 

Neurobiological

Studies have shown that trauma can affect brain development and lead to changes in the brain. When affected by trauma, some parts of the brain can be physically affected. The volume of some parts of the brain can increase or decrease. Trauma can alter the limbic system, the cortex, and the reptilian brain.

 

Cognitive

  • Difficulty to concentrate

  • Difficulty to make decision

  • Memory lapses, especially about the traumatic event

 

Relationnel and social

  • Difficulty to built and maintain healthy relationships

  • Emotional distancing from others

  • Parenting difficulties

 

Spiritual

  •  Feeling that life has no meaning and purpose

  • Question one's purpose

  • Question one's values ​​and beliefs

 

It is crucial to understand that the effects of trauma are not voluntary. Effects of trauma are natural responses of self-protection. Effects of trauma are neurobiological responses to deeply painful life experiences. It is also crucial to remember that just like the brain can help us survive hard times, the brain can also reshape itself so that this brain plasticity can enable positive changes in our lives.