What is Trauma?
Trauma is the experience of an out of the ordinary event that is life-threatening, perceived as life-threatening, or challenging the perception of reality. Examples of traumatic events include physical abuse, sexual abuse, natural disasters, war, and homicide. After the experience of trauma, people often experience feelings of shock, disbelief, fear, anger and grief.
Victims of trauma may also experience physical reactions such as:
- Difficulty sleeping
- Loss of appetite
- Hypervigilence (constant checking to ensure safety, locking all doors and windows, not letting children out of sight)
- Hyperarousal (increased anxiety to a level of constant alert, startling very easily)
What type of people experience trauma?
Anyone can experience trauma, regardless of age, gender, or race. The experience of trauma is very personal. Two people may experience the same event and have different reactions to it. A person's reaction to trauma is not an indicator of their strength or weakness, it is simply their personal reaction to a traumatic event.
Do I have to directly experience a traumatic event to feel traumatized?
No. Trauma reactions occur in people who have directly experienced the event as well as people who witnessed it. For example, witnessing a deadly car crash may be very traumatic, even if you were not directly involved in the crash.
Treatment for trauma will depend on the quantity, quality and length of symptoms, but some general guidelines are:
If you have developed PTSD or Acute Stress Disorder within 3 months of a traumatic event you should be offered cognitive-behavioral therapy. Depending on how you are feeling, a course of treatment is likely to be 12-14 sessions lasting for 60� minutes each. If your symptoms are not severe, treatment may be started in the first month after the trauma and may take only 4 or 5 sessions. A delay in beginning treatment should not affect the success of the treatment. CBT should normally be provided on an individual outpatient basis.
If you have had PTSD for more than 3 months you should be offered a course of trauma focused psychological treatment (CBT or EMDR). These treatments should normally be provided on an individual outpatient basis. If you have experienced a single trauma, a course of treatment is likely to be 12-24 sessions, usually lasting for 60� minutes each. It may be necessary to have more than 12 sessions of treatment if you have experienced the traumatic death of a relative or friend, if the trauma has resulted in a long-term problem or disability, or if you have lived through a series of traumatic events.
This article used material adapted from the National Center for PTSD and the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence.
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