About ‘Trauma’

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What is Trauma?

In simple terms, a ‘trauma’ is an injury. When we talk about trauma in a mental health context, we’re talking about an emotional or psychological injury. This happens when people experience events that are shocking or cause fear, and are beyond their control.

Examples of things that can lead to trauma include things such as childhood abuse or neglect, sexual assault, domestic violence, being involved in a natural disaster, a serious accident, a sudden bereavement, being a victim of bullying, harassment or crime etc. However, in reality, the list is a lot longer.

The impact of trauma

The impact of trauma can last for many years or even decades. Common effects include such things as anxiety, depression, being easily startled, difficulties in sleeping, social isolation, low self-esteem and lack of confidence. When the impact of trauma goes on for longer than 6 months it is usually classed as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

When there have been multiple traumas that interlink, for example, in families where abuse has taken place over a number of years and in a number of ways (physical/emotional/sexual), it is usually classed as cPTSD (with the ‘c’ standing for ‘complex’ due to the multiple layers of trauma experienced).

Trauma has also been shown to play a major role in many serious mental and physical health difficulties. In severe cases it can contribute to things such as addiction to drugs or alcohol, eating disorders, chronic pain, auto-immune and inflammatory diseases, as well as increasing the chances of experiencing life-threatening conditions such as heart disease and cancer. It also impacts social issues such as job retention, housing, relationship breakdown, and social isolation.

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did you know 1 in 5 experience trauma in their lifetime

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Why we work with trauma

Trauma and abuse (including emotional, physical, or sexual abuse) has been experienced by 1 in every 5 adults in the UK.

Think about the number of people in your workplace, in the supermarket queue, on the bus – the number of survivors around us is HUGE. But there are very few support services for those struggling, meaning those around us are often carrying the long-term impact of trauma in silence.

As a charity, we aim to speak the unspoken and bring these issues to the forefront of society. Only 1/8 of victims of childhood sexual abuse ever come to the attention of statutory authorities, and it takes on average 26 years (recorded by SurvivorsUK) for male survivors of sexual abuse to come forward – this has devastating impacts on the long-term mental and physical health of survivors.

Any trauma or abuse writes itself on the mind and body of survivors, meaning that our reactions to it, can be understood through simple neuropsychology. Bessel van der Kolk, a leader in understanding traum, explains that “trauma is much more than a story about the past…trauma is re-experienced in the present, not as a story, but as profoundly disturbing physical sensations and emotions that may not be associated with memories of past trauma”.

It is important to understand that, regardless of whatever happened to us, recovery is always possible and achievable.

Help with trauma

Help with trauma comes in the form of counselling and psychotherapy to help survivors deal with some of the distressing emotional impact, and work through the events that happened. For more complex types of trauma, specialist psychotherapy is needed to help survivors make a full recovery.

You can find out more about the services offered by Trauma Breakthrough for survivors and supporters by visiting our getting help page.

For more information on what trauma is and how to help, you can find recordings of some of our mental health training courses in our shop (there is a small cost for this recording, all of which goes directly back into our work with survivors).

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