Most people are so accustomed to hearing media accounts of major events such as the London Bombings, the Asian Tsunami, the 9/11 Twin Towers attack or the Iraq War that they forget that traumatic incidents don’t necessarily have to be associated with disasters. Being mugged or being involved in even a minor car accident are also considered traumatic events and can have a similar effect on an individual as a large scale disaster.
Sometimes a person may experience a number of life events that seem to happen in a short space of time and these taken together can lead an individual to suffer all the signs and symptoms associated with trauma. For example, you may have a parent die the same week your partner walks out and your child is diagnosed with a life-threatening illness while at the same time your employer tells you that a downsizing exercise is taking place and you are to be made redundant.
Recent studies have estimated the prevalence of Post Traumatic Stress as approximately 5 – 10% of the general population. It would also seem as if some 20 – 40% of individuals exposed to traumatic events experience problems lasting for more than one year, and 15 – 20% for more than two years.
Dealing with trauma gets in the way of living your everyday life and the sooner you know what is wrong and can do something about it the sooner you can get back to living your life.
What are the key psychological signs of a trauma?
You know you may be suffering from post trauma stress if you:
– Have intrusive and distressing recollections of the event in the form of thoughts and images.
– Have dreams or nightmares about a particular eventFeel as if the trauma is actually happening again (this is known as a flashback).
– Experience intense distress when you are exposed to any kind of reminder of the original incident
Very often people have a range of physical symptoms such as headaches, nausea and tummy problems, breakouts of eczema and acne if the person is already prone to such ailments together with a general sense of feeling under the weather physically. In addition, a person may find that she is behaving out of character – for example, opening the oven to find the milk in it and not remembering putting it there. Concentration becomes more difficult and a tendency to jump at the least noise is also common. Sleeping difficulties and mood swings play a part.
Sometimes when a physical injury has taken place, the person does not develop an emotional or psychological reaction to the trauma until they are fully cured. The late Adam Faith was once interviewed by Professor Anthony Clare and talked about a near fatal car crash that had him hospitalized for some five months and how it was only after he was able to walk again that the emotional effects kicked in. It’s as if the body knows that it has to heal before it can allow the mind to take centre stage.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
There is a condition called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and this term is used to describe the longer term psychological effects when an individual does not recover from a traumatic event within a 4-6 week period. After all, if you have experienced an event that has left you shaken to the core it is normal for your mind, body and soul to need a little time to get over the shock and make sense of what has happened. Many people return to normal within 4-6 weeks but some people continue to develop symptoms such as panic attacks or an inability to leave the house or depression and, in such cases, when seen by a trauma specialist a diagnosis of PTSD may be made.
Visit www.babcp.com the Website of the British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies where you can download a really useful leaflet on PTSD.