The Psychological Effects of Trauma
Trauma is a complex experience to comprehend, and its effects can last for years, with great psychological and emotional intensity. Resulting from many different circumstances, a traumatic experience strikes a majority of people at least once in their lifetime.1 From war to abuse to tragedy, the consequences can be emotional and behavioral.1 However, a person does not have to experience the event to be traumatized—spectators are also victims of trauma.1
Emotionally, people who live through traumatic experiences often develop panic attacks, depression, insomnia, and lack of or excessive eating.1 It is also quite possible for them to develop attention problems, as well as memory and concentration issues, which affect their ability to lead a high-quality life.1
A person who has experienced trauma may also be re-traumatized by the circumstances that follow the experience.1 For example, when a victim of a tragic crime, having the judicial system interrogate them over and over, the risk of being re-traumatized increases, as the person is forced to recount their awful experience.1
Some people who have been traumatized aren’t even aware of it.1 This is often the case for those who have experienced domestic violence.1 They have been unable to overcome the fear and intimidation, leading them to be unable to form healthy relationships.1 Many are not aware that this is unhealthy, as it has become “normal” to them.1 However, living their life in fear is a traumatizing situation.1
Trauma can change a person’s hormonal and neurological systems, through chemical changes produced by stress.1 It can also affect the hippocampus, the part of the brain that consolidates memory, leading to problems remembering information about the situation.1 While this is the body’s reaction to suppressing trauma, avoiding talking about it perpetuates the symptoms.1 The memories are still there.1 Time does not erase everything, especially trauma. In fact, the symptoms become less manageable in time, if help is not sought.1 Oftentimes, the symptoms appear suddenly and intensely in the least expected moment.1
While talking about the trauma may be difficult, when done in a safe place with a professional, it brings relief.1 Psychological therapies are best. Therapists have the training needed to listen and consolidate techniques that help a person lead a better life without negative consequences.1 Trauma may happen, but it doesn’t have to rule your life.