Trauma occurs when a person is overwhelmed by a situation that is perceived to be life threatening and is left feeling helpless and out of control. So it is possible some things might be traumatic for one person and may not be for another person. For instance, going into surgery may be traumatic for one person and not another.
Trauma is not only a result of acute events like car accidents, rape, war, horror, it can also be the result of a chronic situation of ongoing physical, emotional or sexual abuse. Ongoing neglect can be traumatic.
When we are shocked and traumatized, we are thrown into a state of survival and our instincts kick in – fight, flight or freeze. Trauma occurs when a person’s physical and emotional responses have not been processed and integrated so the person can be stuck in a state where the reactions and responses are triggered and reactivated even though the danger is long past. This is what is referred to as PTSD – post traumatic stress disorder.
People who are suffering with PTSD can be helped by psychotherapy. It is often hard for a person with PTSD to even seek out therapy because there is often a sense of shame or self blame associated with the trauma. “I should have fought or run or done something different”. A feeling “it was my fault” may persist. And this can keep a person re-experiencing the trauma related symptoms for years.
There is a lot of growing research into trauma and we have many therapists who have specially trained to work with trauma.