Everyone's reaction to potentially traumatic experiences is different. Most people recover well with the help of family and friends and do not experience long-term problems. Some people experience problems directly after the traumatic event or much later.
Potentially traumatic events are powerful and upsetting incidents that intrude into daily life. They are usually experiences which are life-threatening or pose a significant threat to a person’s physical or psychological wellbeing. An event may have little impact on one person but cause severe distress in another. A person’s mental and physical health, available support at the time of the event or their past experience and coping skills can influence how they respond to a traumatic event.
Situations and events that can lead to psychological trauma include:
Other stressful situations which appear less severe may still trigger traumatic reactions in some people.
Many people have strong emotional or physical reactions following the experience of a traumatic event. For most, these reactions subside over a few days or weeks. For some, the symptoms may last longer and be more severe. This may be due to several factors such as the nature of the traumatic event, the level of available support, previous and current life stress, personality, and coping resources. Symptoms of trauma can be described as physical, cognitive (thinking), behavioural (things we do) and emotional.
As long as they are not too severe or don’t last for too long, the symptoms described above are normal reactions to trauma. Although these symptoms can be distressing, they will settle quickly in most people. They are part of the natural healing process of adjusting to a very powerful event, making some sense out of what happened, and putting it into perspective.
With understanding and support from family, friends and colleagues, the stress symptoms usually resolve more rapidly.
Warning signs may include: