What does trauma mean?

5 November 2023by crbwebsite0

What is trauma exactly?


trauma, distress, scream

Trauma often conjures up the image of a terrible accident or incident, or a ‘traumatic experience’. Understanding trauma is paramount for our mental and emotional well-being. It has a profound impact on the brain and body, and produces telltale symptoms. It can be considered as a single event, chronic, and complex trauma, including childhood attachment and development, neglect, and abuse. Moreover, we’ll also discuss the intricate connection between traumatic experiences and mental health and how the path to healing often involves the guiding hand of counselling.

Understanding Trauma

First and foremost, what does trauma mean? Basically its the feelings from a distressing and disturbing experiences that can leave not just a physical wound; but an emotional and psychological scar too. The incident itself is not an indicator of trauma, but how the person felt about it is. These experiences can range from a single, harrowing event like a car accident to prolonged periods of neglect, abuse, or instability. Everyone experiences life differently, so for some a major car accident could affect them for years or be something they ‘got over’ quite quickly. It’s how you experience your own personal reactions to the incidents – not about what actually has happened.

It can include events where you feel:

  • Frightened
  • Under threat
  • Humiliated
  • Rejected
  • Abandoned
  • Invalidated, for example your feelings or views have been dismissed or denied
  • Unsafe
  • Unsupported
  • Trapped
  • Ashamed
  • Powerless
The Effects of Trauma on the Brain and Body:

The impact of distressing events on the brain and body is undeniable. When exposed to traumatic events, the brain’s fight-or-flight response kicks in, flooding the body with stress hormones. This physiological response can lead to long-lasting changes in brain structure and function. Therefore upsetting brain regions responsible for emotional regulation and memory. Hence brain regions such as the amygdala and hippocampus, may be negatively affected. Causing emotional dysregulation and difficulty processing the event as something that has happened, it can still ‘feel’ its happening in the present now.

Symptoms of Distress

Symptoms of traumatic experiences can manifest in a myriad of ways, e.g. flashbacks, nightmares, anxiety, depression, and difficulty in forming and maintaining healthy relationships. The manifestations of trauma are as diverse as the individuals who experience it.

Types of Trauma

Trauma can take on different forms. Single-events can often be linked to a specific incident, like a natural disaster or an act of violence. Chronic trauma emerges from prolonged exposure to adversity, like living in an abusive environment or experiencing poverty. Complex trauma is a web of experiences, often rooted in childhood, encompassing attachment issues, neglect, and abuse. Similarly, these diverse forms of devastating stress can significantly impact mental health and well-being.

How Trauma Affects Mental Health

Traumatic experiences from the past can undeniably affect you today. Leaving lasting scars on your mental health, leading to conditions like anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Moreover these conditions can significantly hinder daily functioning and overall quality of life. Carrying an emotional wound that isn’t seen by all, but has the capacity to emotionally transport you back to exactly how you felt when the traumatic events happened can be terrifying.

The Healing Power of Counselling

Counselling gives you the space to safely explore your feelings. This means not always going over your story or giving details which may be retraumatizing and do more harm than good. But knowing how to pace the sessions, how to help keep you grounded and present, and when to ‘come up’ from the experience. It’s about being along side you and hearing what needs to be said, but knowing how overwhelming this can be. Regularly checking in on how you are doing and gently beginning to help co-regulate a dysfunctional nervous system by staying present and attuned, while offering connection, calm and curiosity.

Meaning feelings are validated which helps to process emotions and memories.

Consequently, trauma deeply affects the brain, body, and mental health. Understanding its many forms and the symptoms it can produce is essential for the path to healing. Counselling, with its therapeutic techniques and support, offers a transformative journey towards recovery, helping survivors overcome the shadows of their past and step into the light of a brighter future.

Your past does not have to reflect your future

If this has left you with questions which you’d like to explore, please click on the contact page to get in touch see how I can help you.


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