Psychological trauma is caused when an individual experiences an event that:
- Involves real or perceived threat to the physical and/or psychological safety of the self or others.
- Elicits feelings of fear and helplessness.
- Overwhelms the individuar8 self-perceived ability to cope, physically, cognitively or emotionally.
PTSD may be the consequence of:
- Onetime occurrences, such as car accidents, violent attacks, sexual assault, natural, disasters, and extreme medical crises.
- Physical, psychological and/or sexual abuse.
- Living in an environment that is physically or emotionally safe aril unpredictable environment. This can apply to adults but more often is the experience of children whose caregivers are neglectful or erratic, or who are subjected to or witness verbal, physical or sexual violence. This type of experience is often referred to as ???complex trauma???.
The effects of trauma manifest physically, emotionally, intellectually, behaviorally and interpersonally. They may appear immediately after the event or events or may not be apparent for months or even years, Consequently, individuals may not immediately associate their symptoms with the trauma and often report just “feeling crazy???. Thus, it is important to keep in mind that post-traumatic symptoms are normal reactions to abnormal events, a consequence of the way our brains process and record traumatic events.
Symptoms can include:
- Anxiety, fearfulness and/or panic attacks.
- Emotional over-reaction, especially fear, sadness, and anger.
- Sudden floods of emotion
- Feelings of detachment and/or emotional numbness.
- Hyper-vigilance, feeling the need to be constantly “on guard???.
- A sense of being different, damaged, or incomplete.
- Feelings of guilt, shame, and inadequacy.
- Memory gaps.
- Difficulties with learning and concentration.
- Intrusive thoughts and/or flashbacks related to the trauma.
- Dissociation (splitting off, becoming mentally absent, feeling “unreal???).
- Substance abuse and other compulsive behaviors.
- Withdrawal from activities and relationships.
- Avoidance of places and situations associated with the trauma.
- Self-destructive and self-harming behaviour.
- Inability to form and maintain close relationships.
- Disturbances of sleep or appetite
- Disordered eating
- Sexual dysfunction
- Unexplained pain
FOR MOST, TRAUMA BEGAN AT HOME
In 2013. the The Alberta Adverse Childhood Experiences Survey prepared for The Alberta Centre for Child, Family and Community Research conducted a study of adverse childhood experience (experiences of childhood abuse, severe family dysfunction). They interviewed 1207 adults of whom approximately one third reported having experienced 1-2 ACEs, and one fifth reported having experienced 3 or mare ACEs. Among the specific findings are:
- 16.9% reported having been verbally/emotionally abused.
- 11.0% reported having been physically abused.
- 14.9% reported having been sexually abused.
- 20.9% reported having had a substance abusing household member.
- 13.1% having been exposed to spousal violence.