What is trauma
What is trauma?
The word trauma means Damage or wound. A psychological trauma can be defined as an event, which leaves a mental wound or injury and which troubles the affected person afterwards.
Many people will have experienced harmful experiences during their lives. Events that have led to an intense fear of losing one's life or that have been deeply offensive.
It is important to know that it is completely natural to have strong reactions both during and after such events.
In most people, these reactions will subside and the problems associated with the experience will disappear to the extent that it does not significantly hinder everyday functioning and the unfolding of life.
For some, however, the problems will persist and eventually lead to mental health problems that should be assessed and treated by a doctor or psychologist.
What types of events are usually associated with psychological trauma?
- Traumatic events often have in common that they occur suddenly, are uncontrollable in nature and overwhelming.
- It is common for them to evoke extreme feelings of helplessness and fear.
- The incident often represents a threat to life and health.
- The consequences can be serious injuries, both physical and psychological - they can also affect others in a way that means that you yourself witness serious abuse or the suffering and/or death of others.
Type of trauma
It is common to distinguish between different types of traumatic events.
One type stands out as trauma inflicted by other people, such as violence, war and abuse.
Another type is more random, such as natural disasters and accidents.
There is also a type of trauma that is inflicted by people who are close to you, so-called relational trauma, such as in the case of family violence and incest.
Furthermore, a distinction is often made between single traumas and traumas that unfold repeatedly over time. This is called complex trauma.
As mentioned above, traumatic events are not uncommon. It is estimated that 7 out of 10 people will experience at least one traumatic event during their lifetime.
Some vulnerable groups, such as drug addicts or refugees, will experience more traumatic events than the general population, for social reasons.
The risk of developing problems afterwards, such as PTSD, is linked to the nature of the incident and whether the person was directly or indirectly affected.
For example, soldiers who have participated in war have a higher risk (10-20%) and among rape victims the frequency is even higher (30-40%).
Studies further show that approximately 1-2% of the Norwegian population meet the criteria for PTSD at all times. Women have a higher risk of developing this disorder than men and the numbers vary between countries.
According to a nationwide survey of violence and abuse in Norway from 2014, almost half of men and a quarter of women have been exposed to physical violence after the age of 18.
Almost 10% of all women and 1% of men have experienced being raped.
NKVTS estimated in 2014 that as many as 350,000-400,000 Norwegians have experienced several types of severe violence as children.
In 2019 showed The Uevo study that about 20% of all children and young people in Norway have experienced one or more forms of violence and sexual abuse, often from close relatives.
The study also showed that incidents of violence rarely occur in isolation, and most people who have been exposed to one type of violence or abuse have also experienced other forms of violence or abuse.
This is serious as the consequences become greater in line with the number of traumas one has experienced (The ACE study)
Overall, we see that even though Norway is a relatively peaceful country, many have experienced very stressful events that can lead to repercussions in the form of psychological problems.
How to deal with reactions and pain after traumatic events?
It is completely normal to experience that traumatic events can cause intrusive thoughts, sleep problems and anxiety afterwards.
This is not so strange really, that we humans can have strong psychological reactions during and after a life-threatening event.
But what happens when these reactions persist or return?
Experiencing intrusive images or sensory sensations linked to the traumatic event, both in the past and in dreams.
For some, these intrusive images can be so strong that it is felt as if the traumatic events are happening again, so-called "flashbacks".
Feelings of confusion, problems with memory and that one experiences oneself as numb and distant.
Feelings of shame and guilt surrounding the experience.
For most, these reactions will subside after some time, but for some, however, the problems will persist or return, as well as cause problems that make it difficult to function in everyday life.
In such cases, it may be important and right to seek help from a doctor or psychologist, who can help you process the trauma and teach you techniques to deal with stress and anxiety.
Good and supportive social relationships can also protect against trauma reactions. Talk to friends and family about what you have experienced and how you feel. Don't be afraid to ask for help or support when you need it.
In addition, psychological strategies characterized by optimism and active coping can provide some protection against trauma reactions. This can include things such as:
- try to find positive aspects of the situation.
- focus on things you can control.
- find ways to relieve stress and overwhelm, such as meditation or exercise.
It is normal to experience reactions after a traumatic event
In conclusion, it is again important to remember that pain after traumatic events can affect absolutely everyone.
It is not an expression of weakness!
By actually telling someone you trust, you take an active role (agent) and therefore take back some of the control.
This is often a first step in the right direction.
Other types of difficulties linked to traumatic events
The ailments described above are often symptoms that can be directly related to trauma.
It is important to mention that those exposed to trauma can also struggle with other types of psychological problems, such as anxiety disorders, depression, eating disorders, substance abuse problems and personality disorders respectively.
We know today that people who have been exposed to violence and abuse in childhood and adolescence generally have an increased risk of developing several types of mental health problems.
Reactions to the fact that you are a real danger are not expressions of a mental disorder
If you live in imminent danger, where you are exposed to violence or abuse, it is not the time or possible to treat your ailments. Then it is absolutely crucial that you get to safety.
A first step in such a situation could, for example, be to contact the police, crisis centre, GP or psychologist. They will be able to give you advice and information if you are unsure of what you want and can do.