What is emotional/psychological trauma?
Psychological trauma can occur as a result of being involved in, or witness to, an extremely stressful event(s). The event does not have to involve physical harm and may include:
- One-off events
- Violent attacks
- Natural disaster
- Break down of relationship
- Death of a loved one
- Humiliating experience
- Ongoing events
- Family violence (i.e., sexual, physical, emotional and/or verbal abuse)
- Exposure to traumatic events in the workplace
- Ongoing illness
- Living in a difficult environment
You may experience one or more of the following symptoms:
- General sense of unease
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Feeling alone
- Feeling frightened even after the event
- Decrease sense of security and safety
- Create a feeling of helplessness
- Create a feeling the world is a dangerous place
- Difficulty managing your emotions (i.e., sadness, irritability)
- Increased feelings of anxiety (including panic feelings)
- Feeling numb or disconnected from others
- Inability to trust others
- Dreams about the event
- Intrusive memories of the event
- Guilt/shame/blaming yourself
- Cognitive issues (i.e., memory difficulty, concentration issues)
You many also experience some physical or behavioural symptoms including:
- Being easily startled
- Increased heart rate
- Agitation for feeling edgy
- Aches or pains
- Muscle tension
- Trouble functioning at work, study and/or home
- Relationship issues
Sometimes people try to cope with trauma using unhelpful strategies such as:
- Avoiding things that remind them of the trauma
- Withdrawing from others
- Using alcohol or drugs to feel better
- Withdrawing from previously enjoyable activities
Seeing a Psychologist
A psychologist can help you to develop more adaptive strategies to cope with trauma. They will tailor the therapy to suit your needs. The types of therapy approaches they may use to assist you are:
- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
- Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT)
- Trauma Focused Exposure
- Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT)
You may be eligible for a referral under Medicare or ATAPS to see a psychologist (see your GP). For those who have been the victim of, or witness to, a violent crime you may wish to speak to a lawyer about your eligibility for VOCAT (not cost to you). For further information see Counselling Services or Our Fees.
Helping a loved one deal with trauma
If you have a loved one dealing with trauma it can be difficult. Some ways you may be able to assist them are:
- Assist practically to help them return to their normal routine (e.g., go with them for a walk or to do the shopping).
- Be patient and understanding. Healing from trauma takes a different amount of time for different people. Be careful not push them too hard.
- Try not to pressure them into talking about the trauma. Your loved one may not wish to speak about what happened but it is good to let them know you are available if they want to talk.
- Assist them to connect with others and engage in positive activities. Your loved one may not feel like engaging with others so it is important to encourage them to participate in exercise, see friends, and engage in hobbies and other activities that bring them pleasure.
- Assist them to engage in relaxation. Encourage them to engage in relaxation, meditation, mindfulness or yoga.
- Recognise that they can struggle to manage their emotions. People who have experienced trauma may have difficulty regulating their emotions. They may feel anxious, stressed, irritable, fatigued and emotionally distant. This is not necessarily to do with your relationship.
- Take care of yourself. It can be difficult to support someone who has experienced trauma. Remember to care for yourself as well so you can then care for your loved one. Follow the tips above too. Many people also choose to see a psychologist themselves as caring for a loved one can take it’s toll emotionally and psychologically.