Newspapers, television and radio tell us almost daily about the terrible things that may happen to us, such as crime, disaster and serious accident. In some countries the risk of being involved in such events is very high, but in Britain it remains relatively low. Despite the low risk, fear of crime can be very high, especially amongst the vulnerable of our society, for example the elderly and women. Such fear can be very disabling and can stop people from living a contented and fulfilling life even though they may not have been directly involved in a traumatic incident.

All of us during our lives encounter painful events, for example, illness or the death of a loved one. Most people feel some distress when these things happen. Many people manage to overcome their distress quickly, while others take some time to re-adjust. There is a big range in the time it can take people to adjust to these upsetting events and some people need help to regain a sense of normality in their lives.

The following concentrates on exceptionally traumatic events, such as suffering a violent attack, being raped, witnessing a violent death, or being in a major accident or disaster – like a sinking ship or an earthquake.

One of the things that makes these things so difficult to cope with is the very fact that they are so rare. For a short tune afterwards people rightly see it as natural to feel upset. Their friends and relatives can usually understand this from their own experiences of more common difficulties. However, some people, even doctors, nurses and other professionals, find it difficult to accept just how severe and prolonged some of the psychological difficulties can be.

Responses To Psychological Trauma

Most of us would recognise feelings of shock, numbness and distress when something traumatic happens to either ourselves or those around us. These normal feelings usually reduce over a period of weeks. However, for a significant proportion of trauma survivors these feelings do not go away and may persist for many months, or even years, after the event. It is hard to say when such reactions become abnormal, but people usually find they need help when their symptoms persist and interfere with their everyday life.

What are the psychological problems that may follow trauma?

People may suffer from a variety of symptoms following a traumatic event. For example they may feel anxious, sad, irritable, guilty, angry or aggressive. The picture may be complicated by grief if someone close to them died in the incident.

Symptoms commonly include those of depression such as having difficulty sleeping, poor appetite, weight loss, feeling that there is no hope for the future, losing interest in hobbies and other previously enjoyable past-times. Some people find that they suffer from ‘panic attacks’, in which they may have difficulty in breathing, a pounding heart and sweaty palms. Others develop phobias (fears of specific things and /or situations) and they may also find that it is difficult to go outside or to be in a confined space.

Some health care professionals call these symptoms, a ‘post traumatic stress disorder’ (PTSD) which simply means a special type of anxiety state triggered by psychological trauma.

When should help be sought?

Most people find that within a few months their symptoms have reduced and that they feel a lot better and do not need to find help. But others find that their symptoms do not resolve and that they do need help to get back to how they were before the traumatic event.

Information Courtesy of:
ASSIST
Assist is an organisation dedicated to offering support, understanding and friendship to individuals and families affected by Trauma

The Penthouse
11 Bank Street
Rugby
Warwickshire
CV21 2QE

Tel : 01788 551919
Helpline : 01788 560800
Email : assist@traumatic-stress.freeserve.co.uk

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