Trauma affects people in different ways. It's a reaction to a very distressing or upsetting experience that overwhelms a person's ability to cope, generates feelings of powerlessness or helplessness, undermines one's sense of self, and limits one's ability to feel a complete range of emotions and experiences.

A small event to one person may be traumatic to another. It all depends on how each individual experiences it.

What is trauma?

While there are no objective criteria for determining which events may result in post-traumatic symptoms, they usually entail a loss of control, betrayal, abuse of power, helplessness, suffering or loss. Traumatic events that result in post-trauma symptoms differ greatly from one individual to the next. There doesn't have to be a war, a natural disaster, or a personal assault to have a tremendous impact on a person's life and alter their experiences. Trauma is highly subjective, and it is critical to remember that it is characterised not by the event itself, but by how the person experienced it.

Types of trauma

Trauma is separated into three main types: acute, chronic, or complex

  • Acute trauma results from a single incident.
  • Chronic trauma is the result of repeated or prolonged incidents such as domestic violence or abuse.
  • Complex trauma stems from multiple wide-ranging, long-term traumatic events, usually of an intrusive, interpersonal nature.

Signs of trauma: physical symptoms

  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Altered sleep patterns
  • Changes in appetite

Signs of trauma: behavioural symptoms

  • Insomnia
  • Difficulty maintaining relationships
  • 'Closing off' from friendships
  • Inability to regulate emotions
  • Nightmares

Signs of trauma: emotional symptoms

  • Sadness
  • Anger
  • Denial
  • Fear
  • Shame

Support for trauma

It is possible, and many people do recover on their own and with the aid of their support systems after experiencing traumatic situations. When recovery trauma doesn't come naturally, professional assistance is sometimes required.

A visit to a mental health specialist or primary care physician is advised if symptoms do not go away after one month of a traumatic experience.

There are also smartphone applications, such as MindDoc, that may help you keep track of your symptoms and emotional wellbeing.