My Sisters Place

What Is Trauma?

What Is Trauma?

Trauma can be understood as an event or events that when experienced create such intense feelings of fear, helplessness, powerlessness, loss of control and often perception of some threat to life, that it can leave us feeling overwhelmed physically, emotionally and mentally and can often overpower our ability to cope or respond in the moment..

It is this overwhelming nature of a traumatic event that effects the way our brain processes the information at the time and interferes with how and where the brain stores the memory of the event. This can mean that the event itself becomes almost frozen in time.

Interpersonal trauma can be defined as experiences involving disruption in trusted relationships as the result of violence, abuse, war or other forms of political oppression, or forced uprooting and dislocation from one’s family, community, heritage, and/or culture. (Bierman, Mason et al., 2010)

It is these experiences over time that can:

‘produce profound and lasting changes in phsysiological arousal, emotion, cognition and memory’

Trauma can be physical violence but also emotional and psychological.

Some significant and common events that can effect us in a traumatic way can include:

  • Domestic abuse
  • Rape
  • Sexual Abuse, sexual exploitation
  • Childhood Sexual Abuse
  • Witnessing acts of violence
  • Torture
  • Severe injury or illness
  • The death of a loved one
  • Fear of or perceived threat to life to self or others
What are some of the symptoms of trauma?

We can experience strong physical or emotional reactions immediately following the experience of a traumatic event. Many people will notice that their feelings dissipate over the course of a few days or weeks. However, for some people, the symptoms of psychological trauma may be increasingly severe and last longer.

Here are some of the physical and psychological signs of trauma. If you are experiencing any of these signs on a regular basis it may indicate that you may be affected by some of the traumatic events you have experienced in your life and accessing trauma informed therapy may be helpful.

Cognitive symptoms
  • Intrusive thoughts of the event that may occur out of the blue
  • Nightmares
  • Visual images of the event, also known as flashbacks
  • Loss of memory and concentration abilities
  • Losing time – dissociation
  • Disorientation
  • Confusion
  • Mood swings
Behavioral symptoms
  • Avoidance of activities or places that trigger memories of the event
  • Social isolation and withdrawal
  • Lack of interest in previously-enjoyable activities
Physical symptoms
  • Easily startled
  • Tremendous fatigue and exhaustion
  • Edginess
  • Insomnia
  • Chronic muscle patterns
  • Sexual dysfunction/disinterest
  • Changes in sleeping and eating patterns
  • Complaints of aches and pains throughout the body
  • Extreme alertness; always on the lookout for warnings of potential danger
Psychological symptoms
  • Overwhelming fear
  • Obsessive and compulsive behaviors
  • Detachment from other people and emotions
  • Emotional numbing
  • Depression
  • Intense Guilt
  • hame
  • Emotional shock
  • Disbelief
  • Irritability
  • Anger
  • Anxiety
  • Panic attacks

The Survivor’s Handbook


Women's Aid

The Survivor's Handbook provides practical support and information for women experiencing domestic abuse, with simple guidance on every aspect of support.

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