A single incident, a string of upsetting emotional or psychological events, or both, can trigger an emotional response known as trauma. However, there is a common misconception that everyone who goes through a distressing situation will experience trauma, which is not the case.
In this article, we explore more about what trauma is, its causes, symptoms, effects, and treatment options.
What is trauma and what causes it?
As mentioned earlier, trauma is defined as the emotional response to a frightening or distressing situation that shatters an individual’s sense of security and hope.
Traumatic events frequently include danger to one’s life or physical safety, but they may also be caused by any circumstance that makes an individual feel helpless and alone. Generally, the more terrified and helpless you feel, the more prone you are to experience trauma.
Some of the common causes of trauma include:
- Surgery (especially if it was traumatic)
- Witnessing a death
- Sudden death of a loved one
- Abuse (physical, emotional, sexual, verbal)
- Substance abuse
- Childhood neglect
- Deeply disappointing or humiliating experiences such as being embarrassed and made fun of in front of others
- Breakups with a significant other
- Setbacks/Failures (e.g., failing an exam, business failures, not achieving the expected grades etc.)
Of course, there are many more causes of trauma besides the ones listed above. There isn’t a fixed set of events or situations that result in trauma. An individual’s personal emotional reaction to the incident, rather than the objective facts, determines whether it qualifies as traumatic.
Symptoms of trauma
The response to traumatic events differs for people. Some individuals may have severe emotional reactions while others may seem like they do not have any outward symptoms. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to how trauma affects different people. In other words, there isn’t a “wrong” or “right” way to react, feel, think, or respond.
However, here are some common symptoms of trauma.
Emotional and psychological symptoms:
- Shock, disbelief, and in some cases, denial
- Anger management issues
- Changes in attitude or worldview
- Loss of interest
- Social withdrawal
- Guilt, shame or self-blame
- Emotional numbness
- Flashbacks (complete re-experience of the traumatic event, including all the sights, sounds and smells associated with it)
- Having nightmares
- Uncontrollable thoughts about the event
- Difficulty concentrating or retaining information
- Feeling on edge
- Aches, pains, and muscle tension
- Having a racing heart
- Being startled easily
People who have experienced trauma frequently feel fragmented. This is because certain aspects of their bodies are still living in the past, stuck in the traumatic moment or incident they have suffered. Oftentimes, the symptoms they experience are so strong that they are more than just memories – rather, it feels as if the traumatic experience is happening over and over again.
Other effects of trauma
Apart from the symptoms we have mentioned above, post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD for short, may also manifest as a result of trauma.
PTSD is a type of anxiety disorder that develops when the symptoms of trauma persist or worsen over time. An individual’s everyday life and relationships are affected by PTSD. Severe anxiety, flashbacks, and persistent recollections of the traumatic incident are all symptoms of PTSD.
Avoidance habits are another sign of PTSD. It may be an indication of PTSD if a person makes an effort to actively avoid thinking about the traumatic incident or any trigger associated with it. Emotional numbness, dissociative reactions and derealisation are also some other signs of PTSD.
Grief is a state of distress brought on by a loss, most frequently the death of a loved one. After a distressing event, it is common for an individual to feel both trauma and grief.
Someone experiencing trauma may go through the five stages of grief, which are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Although the phases are frequently described in this sequence, it’s vital to understand that people might progress through them in any order, repeat them, or skip them entirely.
Treatment for trauma
There is no fixed timeline for trauma recovery – everyone heals at their own pace. However, if months have passed and your symptoms are only going from bad to worse, it may be time to seek the professional help of a trauma counsellor in Singapore.
Trauma is not about what appears to be wrong with you (which can manifest in the form of various symptoms). Instead, it is about what had happened to you that resulted in you feeling helpless and frightened. To heal from trauma, you would need to face the traumatic incident head-on to tackle the feelings of pain, shame and fear associated with it. If the traumatic experience had happened in your childhood, it is the child inside you that holds the key to these memories. Thus, psychotherapy is needed to help you find closure and heal emotionally.
For professional counselling in Singapore, Emotional Wellness is the one for you. We adopt a range of integrative counselling and psychotherapy techniques, such as EMDR therapy, schema therapy, gestalt therapy, cognitive behavioural therapy, bibliotherapy and more, to help you identify the root cause of your trauma and resolve it.
Apart from trauma, we also offer youth counselling services in Singapore for a range of issues such as exam stress, anxiety, low self-esteem, eating disorders, depression and more. Youths may also experience trauma which could affect their quality of life in various ways if left unresolved – including getting into trouble, being unable to trust others and form meaningful relationships, not being able to perform academically or socially and more.
To learn more about our services and how they can help you heal from your trauma, do not hesitate to get in touch with us today.