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Trauma and PTSD

What is Trauma?

A person may experience symptoms of psychological trauma

•    following an event or experience that has put them in a life threatening situation or

•    if there’s been a threat to their physical or psychological wellbeing or

•    if they have witnessed a traumatic event.

A traumatic event can be a single event such as a car accident, unexpected loss of a loved one, sexual assault or a series of events including war, ongoing childhood trauma or domestic violence.  

It is normal, after a traumatic event, to experience some changes in the way a person thinks, acts or feels.  The person may however need to talk to a GP or a mental health professional like a Mental Health Social Worker if

•    They do not feel better after a few weeks or

•    The symptoms are very distressing or

•    The symptoms are impacting on their daily life.

Symptoms of PTSD

Everyone experiences trauma differently.  Some people experience many symptoms while others experience fewer symptoms.  Trauma symptoms can be felt

  • physically in the body, 

  • emotionally, 

  • in the way a person thinks and

  • in the way a person behaves.


Symptoms include:

1.    Reliving the trauma by experiencing nightmares or unwanted memories.  These memories can pop up at any time or are triggered by something that reminds the person of the event.  Reliving the trauma like this can be scary and feel real, like the traumatic event is happening again.

2.    Avoiding reminders of the event/s.  This can include avoiding thoughts, feelings, people, situations or places.

3.    Experiencing negative thoughts or feelings that began or worsened since the event/s.  For example feeling significant guilt, blame or shame in relation to the traumatic event, feeling sad, numb or having difficulty trusting anyone.  The person may  have difficulty in feeling any positive emotions and they may have lost interest in doing things they once enjoyed doing.

4.   Often feeling on edge, jumpy or stressed out.  The person may feel like they are always on alert and looking out for danger.   They may find it difficult to relax, sleep or concentrate.  They may often feel irritable, startle easily, get angry or aggressive quickly.


A person with PTSD may also experience depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts or relationship difficulties.  It may be that the person misuses drugs or alcohol in an attempt to cope with the PTSD symptoms.


Counselling for PTSD

Trauma focused therapies such as Eye Movement Reprocessing Desensitisation (EMDR) can help you by processing the traumatic event/s in a safe and supportive environment.  Treatment may include: 

•    Increasing your knowledge about PTSD and why it affects you in this way,

•    Learning healthy strategies to manage your symptoms,

•    Help you deal with the traumatic memories in a safe way so that you can have a better quality of life, 

•    Exploring and treating other difficulties you may be struggling with such as depression, anxiety or problematic alcohol or drug use.

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