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Trauma

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Published: 18 August 2021

 Trauma

Trauma is a word that describes the impact an event has had on the creation of our memories and our mental health.

It often changes our relationship with fear and can be the cause of many mental health issues.

According to the Mental Health Foundation, around one in three adults in England report having experienced at least one traumatic event.

People sometimes think it’s a word that can only be used to explain something very serious, like being in a war zone or a natural disaster

But it can also be used to talk about difficult day-to-day events as well.

Forms of trauma often start as negative childhood experiences such as physical or mental abuse from a caregiver, loss, or abandonment.

They can also be broken up into three key parts: the event, the experience and the effects.

What happens in the body when you go through trauma?

A traumatic event causes your body’s defences to take effect and create a stress response.

This may make you feel a range of physical symptoms, behave differently and experience more intense emotions.

This is known as the ‘fight or flight response’, where your body produces chemicals that help prepare it for an emergency.

It can lead to:

  • raised blood pressure
  • increased heart rate
  • sweating
  • loss of appetite

This is normal. It’s your body’s natural way of responding to an emergency, making it easier to stand your ground or run away.

Directly after the event that caused ‘fight or flight’, people may also experience shock and denial.

Over time, this gives way to feelings like sadness, anger and guilt. But those too fade and eventually people start to feel better and recover gradually.

It’s when the emotions last longer than a few days that more serious health problems like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression and addiction develop.

The most important thing if you’re experiencing panic and fear is to ask yourself where the pain came from originally.

What to do after experiencing a traumatic event

Turn to others for support

It can be difficult to talk with close family and friends about the trauma you’ve experienced.

But it is important to have people around you who can help you recover, even if that means not talking to them directly about what you’ve gone through.

It’s still important to talk with someone though, so make sure you consider the organisations listed below in this article, all of whom can help.

Look after yourself

When you’ve gone through trauma it’s important to start the healing process early.

That can include taking a break, eating more healthily and staying away from drugs and alcohol which can make the problem worse.

Seek professional help

If your symptoms are affecting your daily life, you should consider looking for professional help. That’s especially true if:

  • you don’t have anyone to talk to
  • your emotions haven't returned to normal after six weeks
  • someone close to you has noticed changes and is asking you to seek help
  • your work or studies are affected
  • you find it difficult to carry out daily tasks
  • you are using drugs or alcohol to cope

At first, speak with your GP. They’ll be able to advise you on treatment or refer you to another professional.

You can also contact a number of voluntary organisations including:

The Samaritans

The Samaritans offer free emotional support 24 hours a day - in full confidence. Call 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org.

Mind Infoline

Mind provides information on a range of mental health topics to support people in their own area from 9am to 6pm, Monday to Friday. Call 0300 123 3393 or email info@mind.org.uk.

Rethink Advice and Information Service

Rethink provide specific solution-based guidance - 0300 5000927 or email: advice@rethink.org.

Specialist mental health services

Several specialist services provide a range of treatments including counselling.

They’re often organised by community mental health teams (CMHTs), usually based in local hospitals.

Some also have 24-hour services meaning you can get in touch with them during a crisis no matter when it happens.

For more information about CMHTs, speak to your GP.

Your Health and Wellbeing team are available to talk with you Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm if you should need further support or information.

Book your appointments through Compass, email the team at londonhealth@sunderland.ac.uk, or call on 0207 531 7343.

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