Trauma can cause all or any of the following symptoms:
• Panic attacks, anxiety and phobias
• Mental blankness or spaced-out feelings
• Addictive behaviours (over-eating, smoking, drinking, etc).
• Amnesia or forgetfulness
• Inability to love, nurture or bond with other individuals
• Sexual difficulties
• Self-harming or suicidal thoughts
• Hypervigilance – always on the look out for some new threat
• Flashbacks of the traumatic events as though they are still happening
• Difficulty sleeping and/or nightmares
• Low mood
• Shame and lack of self-worth
• Reduced ability to deal with stress
Trauma and counselling
People often come to see a counsellor with one particular issue or a range of issues, not realising that they are connected to a traumatic incident or series of incidents. If we are suffering from these kinds of symptoms after experiencing trauma, we are said to be suffering from “post traumatic stress” or PTSD.
What do we mean by trauma?
We use the word “trauma” to describe events that are shocking and emotionally overwhelming, for situations that may involve actual or threatened death or serious injury. However any situation that leaves you feeling overwhelmed and alone can be traumatic, even if it doesn’t involve physical harm. It’s not the objective facts that determine whether an event is traumatic, it’s how you feel about it inside. The more frightened and helpless you feel, the more likely you are to be traumatised.
The obvious causes of trauma include war, severe childhood emotional, physical or sexual abuse, neglect, betrayal, or abandonment in childhood, experiencing or witnessing violence, rape and sexual assault and catastrophic injuries and illness. for more information on healing from abuse go to my Healing after Abuse page
But trauma does not have to stem from a major catastrophe. Less obvious causes include a variety of apparently ordinary events such as bullying (both at school and in the workplace), minor car accidents, falls and other apparently minor injuries (particularly true with regard to children and older people, natural disasters, including fires and floods, being left alone especially young children and babies and birth stress, for both mother and baby. Invasive medical and dental procedures sometimes result in trauma particularly in children who may have been restrained or anaesthetised or adults where certain medical procedures, such as a pelvic examination, can be experienced as an attack, even though rationally we accept that they are necessary and beneficial to our health.)
If the trauma is not addressed at an early enough stage, then our minds and bodies hang onto it. The symptoms of trauma can be ever-present or they can come and go, remaining hidden for years and then suddenly surfacing. They can also be triggered by stress. The symptoms can grow increasingly complex over time, and the connection to the original trauma experience can diminish, leaving us with the symptoms and no apparent cause.
How I work with trauma recovery
In recent years we have learned a great deal about how to recover from trauma so it does not have to be a life sentence. We do need to learn to trust the messages our minds and bodies are giving us– we mustn’t ignore our symptoms, time doesn’t make them go away. It’s really important to know that you don’t have to consciously remember an event in order to heal from it. You don’t, if you don’t want to, have to speak about what happened at all, or dwell on it yourself. Trauma memories of it are stored as fragmentary experiences in our bodies, not in the rational parts of our brains. Successful healing methods often involve establishing a connection to the body rather than going over and over traumatic events.
This means that my first priority is to ensure that you feel totally safe both in your counselling space but also in your everyday life. I use the techniques of mindfulness, breathing and deep relaxation to connect you to a calm, grounded, relaxed part of yourself. We look at what resources you already have that will help you with your recovery and what additional ones you might require along the way. We then move reconnecting with people, friends, family, the community and the wider world, finding meaningful activities, establishing new life goals and finding renewed meaning and purpose in your life.
Getting help – Trauma Counselling Cork
I have specialist knowledge in working with clients suffering from the effects of trauma and PTSD. Whatever your experience, I am here to help. Read more about my Trauma Counselling Cork services and my Abuse Counselling Cork page
For more information about trauma and recovery, read these articles: Trauma and resilience, recovering from trauma, trauma and complex PTSD, trauma recovery.