At some point in our lives we’re all likely to experience some form of traumatic experience, something that will stay with us for a long time, and, potentially, change the way we see the world.
Understanding how to identify and deal with that trauma can go a long way in helping you recover from it.
What is Trauma?
Trauma is an extreme or disturbing event that leaves you with a feeling of being overwhelmed and distressed for a period of time afterwards.
Traumatic events can be both physical and psychological which can include any types of physical violence like a mugging or motor vehicle accident, or psychological abuse such as bullying.
After experiencing a traumatic event, the body can experience symptoms in two distinct patterns:
- Short-term: This develops immediately after the event and can disappear within a few weeks
- Long-term: This can develop into a long-lasting response similar to anxiety called post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This usually occurs within six months of the event, but only around 10% of traumas lead to PTSD.
Signs of Trauma
- Physical symptoms include trembling, shaking, nausea, headaches, sweating and tiredness
- Difficulty dealing with normal aspects of life like sleep, appetite or sex-drive
- Deep physiological symptoms like anxiety, fear, sadness, feelings of loss, difficulty concentrating or remembering, anger, irritability and an overwhelming feeling of loneliness and senselessness
- Reliving or flashbacks to the event are commonplace
- Avoiding situations or thoughts that are associated with the traumatic event
Each person will experience trauma in a different way, and the signs can vary from person to person. There may be other signs that are unique to each situation. If you’ve experienced trauma and are suffering any signs that are not normal for you, reach out to someone immediately.
Dealing with Trauma
If you do believe you’ve experienced a traumatic event, there are a few immediate steps you can take to help understand and process the event:
- Talk – talking to someone, whether they’re a friend, family member or professional, will help you begin to process the event and better understand it. Remember that you’re not alone and can always ask for help if you feel you need it.
- Time – traumatic events can be extremely difficult to fully grasp in the immediate aftermath of the situation, and the effects might be long-lasting. Allow yourself time to process the trauma and talk to someone, and understand that it will take time for you to adjust and move on.
- Relax – trauma puts immense stress on the body, both physically and mentally. Try to take some time out and relax, avoid loud noises and tightly-packed events, and enjoy doing the more relaxing things in life. Do NOT try to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol as both will negatively impact your recovery significantly.
GetSavvi Health members
Can use our Member Wellness Programme for counselling, support, awareness and advice on a range of topics.
Non-GetSavvi Health members
Can contact the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG). It is Africa's largest mental health support and advocacy group. Or simply contact Lifeline South Africa for free national counselling on 0861 32 23 22.
Post-Traumatic Stress Explained
What is trauma? What to know
What Is Trauma?