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What is Trauma & how does it differ from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)? Know its Causes and Symptoms

What is Trauma & how does it differ from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)? Know its Causes and Symptoms

05 September, 2022

A time based emotional response to a particular event is known as trauma that causes deep damage or impact on the mind. This profound trauma or damage can be in any form, such as physical, psychological, social, mental and emotional. There are different reasons for each of these. Trauma can occur once, twice, or on multiple occasions, and more than one type of trauma can also be experienced at a given point of time.

The inability to recover from a traumatic experience can lead to long term emotional damage, leading to susceptibility to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This may sometimes lead to deaths, and disabilities. These can be prevented if people are given proper information and necessary training about ways to deal with it.

Types of Trauma

  • Physical or Acute Trauma-This results from any damage to the body due to a stressful or dangerous event. This damage can happen due to many reasons. Out of all these reasons, road accidents are the major cause of trauma all over the world.
  • Emotional or Chronic Trauma-Emotional and psychological trauma can be caused by repeated and persistent physical and mental injury, such as child abuse, bullying, etc. but sometimes people can suffer emotional and psychological trauma without any physical damage. Women are more prone to emotional trauma than men.
  • Complex trauma-Complex trauma is described as exposure to multiple traumatic incidents, often severe and prevalent. This is generally associated with kids, which tends to disrupt their mental growth. Examples include sexual abuse, incest, ongoing physical or emotional abuse, mental torture or being held captive, abandonment, etc.

Causes of Trauma

  • Divorce or traumatic grief.
  • Death of a Family Member, Lover, Friend, Teacher, or Pet.
  • Physical pain or injury (such as a serious car accident).
  • Serious illness/ Medical trauma.
  • Natural disaster.
  • War or military trauma.
  • Natural disaster.
  • Community violence (interracial, police, gang-related, etc.).
  • School violence or bullying.
  • Moving to a new place or forced displacement.
  • Being a witness to any of the above traumatic events.
  • Drug overdose.
  • Abandonment by parents or feeling neglected.
  • Domestic violence or Sexual abuse.

Symptoms of Trauma

People respond to traumatic events in different ways. There are often no obvious signs, but people can have severe emotional reactions. Shock and denial are a common reaction soon after the incident. Shock and denial are typically used to protect oneself from the emotional impact of the event.

Symptoms of Trauma can range from mild to severe. These depend on the person's characteristics, mental condition, exposure to past traumatic events, the type of event, and the background of how the person handles the emotion.

Emotional Symptoms of Trauma

  • Numbness, denial, and disbelief.
  • Confusion or trouble in concentrating.
  • Anger, irritability, mood swings.
  • Worry and fear.
  • Feelings of guilt, shame, and self-blame.
  • Staying aloof.
  • Be sad and disappointed.
  • Feeling cut off or numb from others.

Physical Symptoms of Trauma

  • Insomnia or nightmares.
  • Fatigue.
  • Hamstring strain.
  • Increased heart rate.
  • Feeling aches and pains.
  • Feeling of passion and ferocity.
  • To be easily startled or trembled.
  • Headache.
  • Poor digestive system.
  • Sweating profusely.

An important thing to note is that trauma doesn't just happen in adults. Children can also suffer from this.

What is Trauma in children?

According to research, children are at higher risk of trauma as their brain continues to develop. Children experience high states of stress during frightening or terrifying events, and then their body releases hormones related to stress and fear. This type of trauma in children can disrupt normal brain development. The resulting long-lasting trauma can affect a child's emotional development, mental and physical health. Because of this, the feeling of fear and helplessness can persist until adulthood and there is a risk of getting trauma in the future too.

Symptoms of Trauma in 0-3 year olds

  • Not eating properly.
  • Frequent sleep disturbances.
  • Irritable behavior.
  • Child being scared.
  • To be surprised at something.
  • Delayed speaking.
  • Aggressive behavior.
  • Talking about and remembering the traumatic event.

Symptoms of Trauma in 3-6 year old child

  • Procrastination and worrisome thoughts.
  • Feeling scared all the time.
  • Feeling hopeless and helpless.
  • Headache.
  • Having a hard time understanding what's bothering them.
  • Daydreaming and always being irritable.
  • Aggressive behavior.
  • Be sad or worried.
  • Not making friends and trying to be alone.

How does Trauma differ from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?

Although, often used interchangeably, trauma and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) differ from each other in their degree of time. Trauma is a specific time based phenomena which when worsens takes the form of a disorder known as PTSD.

How to Recover from situation of Trauma

  • Follow a healthy routine.
  • Talk to family members, friends about your troubled situation.
  • Maintain positive attitude towards things & situations.
  • Watch comedy movies and shows. Spending time with family, reading, listening and sharing jokes proves to be of great help.
  • Practice deep breathing, yoga and meditation for at least 30 minutes every day.
  • Try to get 7 to 9 hours of sleep.
  • Avoid alcohol consumption and smoking. These increase the symptoms of trauma such as depression, anxiety, and feelings of loneliness.

Therapeutic Treatments for Trauma

  • Cognitive therapy-This talk therapy helps you identify your way of thinking. In this, you are made to realize that your quality of life is being affected due to negative thinking.
  • Exposure therapy or Somatic experiencing-This therapy helps you to safely face the situation that scares you, so that you can learn how to deal with it effectively. One dimension of exposure therapy is a virtual reality program, in which you are introduced to the setting in which you experience trauma.
  • Sensorimotor psychotherapy-It combines psychotherapy with certain body-based techniques that could help the patient to turn their trauma into a source of strength.
  • Acupoint stimulation-Acupoint stimulation involves a trained practitioner apply pressure to specific points on the body, which induces relaxation & provide a calming effect, releasing the stress out of the body.
  • Touch therapies-Certain touch therapies such as Reiki, healing touch, and therapeutic touch therapy helps a person gather positive vibes from a practitioner performing these therapies.
  • Group therapy-It consists of creating a group of people who are going through similar experiences so that they can share their experiences & be vocal about their miseries. This helps to overcome traumatic situations.
  • When to visit a Psychiatrist?

    If all the efforts to cope up with the traumatic events fail and the condition doesn’t get better, then they should seek help from a mental healthcare professional. It is particularly important to seek help if the symptoms of trauma interfere with routine life or impacting relationships.

    Even those with low to mild symptoms can talk to someone about how they feel to have a better hold on themselves and feel better.

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