Explains what trauma is and how it affects your mental health, including how you can help yourself, what treatments are available and how to overcome barriers to getting the right support. Also includes tips for people who want to support someone who has gone through trauma.
Trauma affects everyone differently. This page covers:
You might recognise some of the experiences listed on this page. You might also have other experiences or reactions that aren't mentioned here.
When we feel stressed or threatened, our bodies release hormones called cortisol and adrenaline. This is the body's automatic way of preparing to respond to danger, and we have no control over it.
This can have a range of effects, which are sometimes called:
Studies have shown that stress signals can continue long after the trauma is over. This might affect your mind and body, including how you think, feel and behave.
"Four years on it's still problematic, viewing the world as a threat, constant hypervigilance, sleep problems etc which then lead onto deeper personal issues."
These are some common effects of trauma that you might recognise:
"I feel my emotions more intensely [...] because I think I have what I like to call emotional flashbacks. I feel emotions in the present that I couldn't or didn't want to or know how to feel in the past when I am triggered."
"I learned a lot of new vocabulary on my journey... things like triggers and flashbacks seemed such powerful words that I couldn't begin to imagine how they could be applied to me... but I now know how subtle these things are too."
"A change in the look on someone's face, a particular tone of voice, the way my name is spoken... I was not aware until very recently how impactful these tiny things could be and change me from a functioning adult into a fearful child."
"There's also an inherent sense that you did something wrong – either that you caused what happened to you, or that you should be dealing with it better. "
Watch Anamoli, Hayley, Paul and Paul talk about their experience of dissociative disorders in this video.
"It didn't matter how many people – friends, family, and therapists – told me it wasn't my fault, because my mind had already decided it was, and didn't want to hear what anyone else had to say."
Studies suggest that trauma could make you more vulnerable to developing physical health problems, including long-term or chronic illnesses.
This might be because trauma can affect your body as well as your mind, which can have a long-term impact on your physical health. You might also have been physically harmed during the trauma. Having a physical illness or disability can also make you feel stressed and anxious, which might make it even harder to cope with trauma.
If you're experiencing physical symptoms, it's a good idea to see your GP so they can check you over and help you access the right kind of treatment and support.
The effects of trauma can last for a long time, or come and go. You might find you have difficulty with day-to-day aspects of your life, including:
In some cases trauma can have a serious impact on your ability to work.
"It took ages for me to start feeling safe. I'd be out in public with mates, and a car would backfire, or a stranger would shout something to a friend just a bit too loudly, and I'd be halfway into a panic attack before I'd even realised it had begun."
This information was published in January 2020. We will revise it in 2022.
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