Trauma and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder


Trauma is a psychophysical experience, even when the traumatic event causes no direct bodily harm.  That traumatic events exact a toll on the body as well as the mind is a well-documented and agreed-upon conclusion of the psychiatric community.

It is important to identify that there are differences between stress, traumatic stress, post traumatic stress and post traumatic stress disorder.  The most extreme form of stress is stress that results from a traumatic event or experience (traumatic stress).  Post traumatic stress is traumatic stress that continues following the traumatic event or experience.  When post traumatic stress accumulates to such a point that there is a high level of daily dysfunction for the individual, it becomes post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

(Information from ‘The Body Remembers’ by Babette Rothschild:  2000)

Traumatic experiences often involve a threat to life or safety, but any situation that leaves you feeling overwhelmed and alone can be traumatic, even if it does not involve actual physical harm.   Reactions to trauma may feel unusual, frightening and disturbing but they are what are termed as ‘normal and expected responses to abnormal events’.  The consequences of trauma and PTSD will be different for everyone and will depend upon the age of the person, nature of the trauma, the response to the trauma and the support available following the trauma.

Not everyone who experiences a traumatic event will develop PTSD.

Responses to trauma therefore will differ widely from person to person.  Someone experiencing symptoms of trauma may suffer from one or several of the following symptoms, however this list is not exhaustive:

  • memories such as thoughts, images and flashbacks
  • re-experiencing the trauma both physically and mentally
  • nightmares and insomnia
  • a sense of constant danger
  • emotional detachment (known as dissociation)
  • stress / anxiety / panic attacks
  • anger
  • despair
  • depression
  • feeling numb and disconnected
  • feeling unable to trust others
  • loss of self-esteem
  • use of alcohol or drugs to alleviate symptoms

Causes of trauma:

  • abuse and violence including the threat of abuse or violence and witnessing abuse or violence
  • catastrophic events
  • being involved in an attack or witnessing an attack
  • accidents or the witnessing of an accident
  • bereavement
  • medical and surgical procedures
  • difficult birth – can cause problems for both mother and baby

Working with a counsellor can help someone suffering with the aftermath of a traumatic experience by initially helping the individual gain some control by learning to cope with and manage the symptoms of post traumatic stress or PTSD which can be frightening and isolating.  Working towards processing and understanding what has happened may help the individual relegate the symptoms of the trauma to the past, enabling him or her to live life more fully going forward.

I am experienced in working with both survivors of historic and current sexual and domestic violence.

I also have experience of working with people who have undergone extensive surgical interventions such as amputations and other major surgery and understand the need for help and support both before, during and after the surgical procedure, hospitalisation and subsequent rehabilitation and then moving forward with life in an adaptive way.