What is trauma?
Trauma is a bodily injury that causes a wound or a shock to the system. If a condition is caused by internal bleeding, for example – then this is known as a traumatism. In addition, it can be something which causes a shock to the brain, affecting its emotional state. This is usually referred to as a psychological injury by healthcare professionals. In cases of major trauma, such as multiple injuries that might follow a road traffic accident, for instance, then there may also be psychological damage that is inflicted, too, certainly if someone is incapacitated following such an event. In such cases, both forms of trauma - physical and psychological - will need to be dealt with.
How does physical trauma differ from psychological trauma?
The first thing to say about physical trauma is that it is usually apparent. Damage to the body will result in pain as well as other common signs, such as bleeding. By contrast, psychological trauma is often unseen. However, it will often manifest itself in certain behaviours – or the lack of them. People who have been traumatised psychologically will sometimes find it difficult to express their emotional well-being, suffer from bouts of anger or moodiness and will also sometimes have bad dreams. A common form of this phenomenon is known as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) which will mean that a person continues to suffer long after a traumatic event and well after physical traumas can have been expected to heal.
How does trauma affect the brain?
Anyone who has suffered from a traumatic event will be likely to have stress hormones released into their brain. This can make a physiological difference to the brain's make up that takes time to recover from, depending on the levels of stress hormones and the sometimes repetitive nature of the stress itself. During the First World War, so-called shell shock began to be treated as a psychological condition due to the effects on soldiers' brains. Doctors noticed that infantrymen continued to show symptoms well away from the front due to brain problems. In the developing brains of children, psychological issues can be even more acute due to the way a growing brain arranges its own hierarchy. Children who have suffered from trauma may go on to develop disorders in adult life, such as neuroticism, for instance.
Can trauma cause conditions?
As mentioned, a trauma in childhood can lead to long-term conditions in adulthood. In addition, psychological problems with traumatic events can come out in other bodily ways. Some people develop skin complaints as a result of psychological trauma, for example.
How can you deal with psychological trauma?
Coping mechanisms can be acquired to help with psychological trauma and its effects. A lot of this simply means being better educated about it. Also, emotional regulatory techniques can be used, such as focussing on grounding thoughts and remaining mindful of your mental state. Emotional and experiential processing are two other methodologies often used by psychology professionals and counsellors.