Exposure to a traumatic event or ongoing traumatic events that involved actual or threatened death or serious injury, or a threat to one’s physical or emotional integrity, can be a life altering experience. If you have experienced trauma in your life, you may be suffering from emotional reactions and other symptoms which can be very debilitating. The traumatic experience usually involves feelings of intense fear, helplessness, or horror. It may lead to the development of a syndrome referred to as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Common traumatic experiences that cause this type of response include but are not limited to the following:
- Sexual Abuse: incest, rape, fondling, molestation, exposure of genital area, etc., unwanted sexual comments or innuendos or other unwanted or inappropriate sexual behavior. Perpetrators can be know or unknown to the victim.
- Physical Abuse: child abuse/domestic violence, including: hitting with hand, fist or objects; punching; kicking; hair pulling; pushing; trapping; choking; restraining; breaking or destroying surroundings; or other threatening or intimidating behaviors.
- Verbal/Emotional Abuse: includes excessive criticizing, demeaning, name calling, insults to one’s character, and generally aggressive verbal assaults.
- Accidents or Disasters: hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, vehicle accidents, etc.
- Group Violence/Abuse: war, protests, riots, anarchy, gangs, cults.
- Betrayal & Loss: infidelity, abandonment, theft, illness, disability, death.
Common symptoms include:
- Anxiety, fear, nervous worry
- Recurrent dreams, nightmares
- Recurring intrusive or obsessive thoughts
- Inability to remember certain aspects of the event(s)
- Avoidance or phobic response of people, places, objects or events that trigger unwanted memories or reactions
- Difficulty sleeping/ insomnia, often due to thoughts associated with traumatic events
- Feeling detached or as if you are walking in a dream/nightmare; feeling strange, separate from others, or different
- Feeling like you know an awful truth about life that others don’t
- Feeling paranoid/ hypervigilant that the event will happen again
Other more general symptoms following a trauma can include symptoms of anger, depression, anxiety, inappropriate self-blame and low self-esteem.