Articles

Trauma

Trauma
By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 1/29/2019 6:24:40 AM IST

  “After all, when a stone is dropped into a pond, the water continues quivering even after the stone has sunk to the bottom” (Arthur Golden, Memoirs of a Geisha). 

The world we occupy is marred by an atmosphere of violence, neglect, abuse and deprivations. Due to this, incidents of trauma are on the rise across the world. 

Whether it is in the war torn regions of Syria, cases of child sexual/physical abuse, conditions of extreme deprivation/poverty or in cases of natural disasters such as an earthquake or the tsunami, one can clearly observe psychological trauma. 

The broad spanning word, trauma, can include one-time incidents (death, accident, natural disasters) or repetitive experiences (child abuse, neglect, deprivation, domestic violence, military combat). 

The noteworthy point here being that evaluation of whether an incident is traumatic or not depends on the individual experiencing it. Thus, trauma is centred on the experience of the survivor.  Though one time incidents can be traumatic, repeated experiences are more likely to have an adverse impact of mental health and often lead to mental illness due to its prolonged nature. Individuals who have experienced trauma are much more likely to develop depression, dependence on various substances (ex-alcohol), personality disorders, anxiety disorders and eating disorders. 

Directly resulting from the experience of a traumatic event is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). 

This is characterized by: intrusive thoughts (memories about the incident/distressing dreams/flashbacks, avoiding reminders of the traumatic event (people, places), negative thoughts and feelings and arousal and reactive symptoms (irritable, anger, reckless behaviour, self harm). 

Research has shown that immediately following a traumatic event, the individual may experience shock (feeling numb) or be in denial. Following this, individuals may feel frightened, helpless, ashamed, guilty or sad and often, a combination of these emotions. 

Symptoms such as sleep disturbance, tiredness, nightmares, headaches and various body aches may be present. What often worsens the experience is lack of support from family members/friends; unable to understand the experience of the survivor, family members often push them to become normal and criticize them as they are trying to cope with it. This only leads to the survivor feeling very isolated and withdrawing themselves. 

The experience of trauma may overwhelm the individual to such an extent that he/she may find it difficult to cope with it. How individuals respond to the trauma will also depend on the nature of the trauma- natural (earthquake) or man made (rape), duration of the trauma, past experiences, coping resources and social support. 

It is preferable that individuals who have experienced/experiencing trauma seek professional help because the experience might be frightening for them and often, we do not have the coping resources to deal with it. If you know a family member/friend who has experience trauma, try and adopt a patient and understanding approach. 

We often try and simplify things, expecting that the person would “get-over” what happened but this is very often not the case. 

Though we might have the person’s best interests at heart, pushing them to return to normalcy may only worsen the situation. The individual may be left to feel helpless and inadequate. 

Traumatic experience can occur at any given moment- an unexpected accident or a sudden catastrophe. However, a traumatic experience does not mean that all hope is lost. Given the right support system and time to heal, individuals can overcome links to past traumatic memories and establish new patterns of being in the world. 

Parvathy Nair, Clinical Psychologist, nairparo@gmail.com

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