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The Manifestation of Trauma

According to the APA, Trauma is defined as, "the emotional response someone has to an extremely negative event". These negative events could be of multiple types including natural disasters, victim/witness to assault or attack, loss of a loved one, terminal illness, abuse, etc. While it is normal to have negative reactions after a traumatic event, sometimes, these emotional experiences can be severe, causing disability and/or dysfunction. Needless to say, trauma has debilitating effects on the mental, as well as the physical health of an individual, which can manifest in either conventional or unconventional ways for each individual.

Post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms may start within one month of a traumatic event, but sometimes symptoms may not appear until years after the event. These symptoms cause significant problems in social or work situations and in relationships. They can also interfere with your ability to go about your normal daily tasks. The typical symptoms of someone having trauma-related distress or disorder are:

Intrusive memories

· Recurrent, unwanted distressing memories of the traumatic event

· Reliving the traumatic event as if it were happening again (flashbacks)

· Upsetting dreams or nightmares about the traumatic event

· Severe emotional distress or physical reactions to something that reminds you of the traumatic event


· Trying to avoid thinking or talking about the traumatic event

· Avoiding places, activities or people that remind you of the traumatic event

Negative changes in thinking and mood

· Negative thoughts about yourself, other people or the world

· Hopelessness about the future

· Memory problems, including not remembering important aspects of the traumatic event

· Difficulty maintaining close relationships

· Feeling detached from family and friends

· Lack of interest in activities you once enjoyed

· Difficulty experiencing positive emotions

· Feeling emotionally numb


· Being easily startled or frightened

· Always being on guard for danger

· Self-destructive behaviour, such as drinking too much or driving too fast

· Trouble sleeping

· Trouble concentrating

· Irritability, angry outbursts or aggressive behaviour

· Overwhelming guilt or shame

Trauma may not necessarily manifest in the typical ways as seen in the above mentioned symptoms. The other ways it can manifest in are:

· Physical or emotional numbness

· Unexplained pains and aches throughout the body

· Withdrawal or clinginess in behaviour

· Self-destructive behaviours

· Sexual dysfunction or reduced sex drive

· Nihilistic ideations, meaninglessness

It is vital for us to know the typical as well as the atypical symptoms of trauma so that everyone can seek appropriate care and attention and no individual suffering from trauma goes unattended or untreated.

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