The symptoms of trauma

After a traumatic event, some recover quickly. Others are not able to return to normal. They keep living as if the traumatic event never ended. They have become traumatized.

The core symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, are:

·      Intrusion

·      Avoidance

·      Hyperarousal, and

·      Numbness

Let's have a closer look at each of these.

Intrusion means that the traumatic event is relived as:

·      Memories of the traumatic event that suddenly intrude into the present moment

·      Recurring fearful dreams or nightmares

·      Flashbacks where one feels and acts as if the traumatic event is happening right now

Avoidance is an attempt to avoid distressing memories, thoughts, feelings, and reminders of what happened.

Hyperarousal is a state of chronic stress where the person often has heightened alertness, is easily alarmed, has increased irritability, and problems with concentration and sleep.

Numbness is feeling distant and detached from almost everything, including oneself. It may be difficult to connect in significant relationships. Feeling anything except fear, anger, guilt, and shame may be difficult. Interests and activities that used to be important and enjoyable may not feel significant anymore. Even the memory of the traumatic event may be fragmented and incomplete.

A severe form of numbness is dissociation. Dissociation is a disconnect from the present. One feels disconnected from one's own mind and body, and from time, space, and what's going on around. Things may feel unreal and dreamlike.

When such symptoms last for more than a month after a traumatic event and cause significant distress or impaired functioning, then it may be PTSD.

Repeated traumatic events, prolonged trauma, especially childhood trauma, may lead to Complex PTSD. In Complex PTSD, there's often dissociation, difficulties regulating emotions, negative self-image, relational difficulties, and loss of hope, meaning, and faith.

Trauma is hard to experience and hard to live with. But there is hope! It is possible to overcome trauma with time, treatment, and supportive relationships.

In the next video, we’ll explore the causes of trauma. is a project of Adventist Health Ministries.

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