Psychological trauma is defined as damage to a person's mind as a result of one or more events that cause overwhelming amounts of stress that exceed the person's ability to cope or integrate the emotions involved, eventually leading to serious, long-term negative consequences.
Emotional and psychological trauma can be caused by an adverse experience, including one-time events (e.g. accident), ongoing prolonged stress, such as domestic violence, or childhood abuse and neglect. There are also commonly overlooked causes, such as the sudden death of a family member or friend or the breakup of a significant relationship. Psychological trauma changes the way the brain functions, impairing neurophysiological, psychological, and cognitive functioning.
In severe cases, individuals may develop Traumatic Stress symptoms and PTSD including these common symptoms: • Sleep disturbance and nightmares • Irritability, anger and oppositional behaviour • Intrusive thoughts and memories • Avoidance of people, places and things that are reminding of a traumatic event • Anxiety and panic • Hypervigilance • Physical symptoms: racing heart, headaches etc. Overall, experiencing a traumatic event can harm a person’s sense of safety, sense of self, and ability to regulate emotions and navigate relationships. Long after the traumatic event occurs, people with trauma can feel shame, helplessness, powerlessness and intense fear. Researchers and clinicians have been studying the ways that individuals differ in their ability to manage stress, trauma, and overwhelming stimulus for the last few decades.
If you are interested in knowing more about psychological trauma and how it is impacting our brain and body - there are wonderful books to explore this topic.
1. The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel van der Kolk 2. Healing Trauma: A Pioneering Program for Restoring the Wisdom of Your Body by Peter A. Levine 3. The Developing Mind: How Relationships and the Brain Interact to Shape Who We Are by Daniel J. Siegel 4. The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog by Bruce D Perry