A subjective emotional experience
Trauma hits an individual’s psyche when he or she feels that his or her life is threatened.
Any danger that causes a feeling of fear and powerlessness, of isolation and of being overwhelmed can cause trauma.
The victim feels helpless, restless and nervous in a dangerous world. He or she is confronted with overwhelming emotions and memories that do not go away easily. Victims become numb and unable to trust others.
Threat. Turn. Response
Our brain, where interpretation is done orders are issued, receives and processes external stimuli then resorts to a response adapted to the situation in which we find ourselves. When an event puts our life in danger, the brain processes information in an active, instinctive and unconscious way to generate an adapted and fast response. This age-old response type varies between fighting, fleeing or freezing. The brain bypasses the path of slow, conscious and logical processing of information to avoid being aware of a frightening event that can be fatal.
As a result, the event as we perceive and feel it will be recorded in our memory. Its
dangerousness impacts the structure of our brain, altering our perception of the world and consequently modifying our behavior and interactions with others
A well-engraved imprint
Trauma does not impact us all in the same way. Our perceptions, thoughts and reactions to dangerous situations differ. It is really important not judging our reactions or those of others. Everyone is at risk, so we must not stigmatize the victims.
The symptoms of trauma are both physical and psychological:
Insomnia or nightmares, fatigue, being easily startled, difficulty concentrating, tachycardia, nervousness and agitation, physical pain, muscle tension.
Shock, denial, confusion, sudden and intense mood swings, anxiety and fear, guilt, shame, isolation, sadness or despair.
In addition, some victims see their perception of time altered and feel it passing much slower. Others may disconnect from their feelings and lose interest in life. There are also cases where victims may dissociate themselves from their memories. Their trauma-related memory becomes distorted (simple amnesia) or erased (extreme amnesia) and will only be restored when they expose themselves to clues recalling the past traumatic event.
Some victims find themselves in a constant panic mode. Our primitive brain, with its amygdala and hippocampus, evaluates the threat of a danger by comparing it to past events recorded in our memory. It acts as a calibrated scale that weighs emotions and perceptions according to stored references to produce behavior adapted to the situation. In a person suffering trauma, this scale is always out of sync, pushing the victim to stay on alert. He or she is always in a state of fear and hyperawareness, like an alarm system that is sounding constantly.
Emotional and psychological trauma can be caused by:
Recovery is on the horizon
Trauma is not a disease, but a consequence of an injury. Several methods can help to treat it, including psychotherapy. Psychotherapy focuses on the source of the problem to help the victim control his or her symptoms and emotions and reduce his sensitivity to a traumatic experience.