Traumatic events range from serious accidents, wartime exposure, childhood abuse, childhood neglect, sexual abuse or assault, physical abuse or assault, witnessing a traumatic event, and natural disasters. Not everyone who experiences or witnesses a traumatic event develops a mental health condition, however many do. Click here for a checklist of traumatic events that you may have experienced. If you check one or more, meeting with a counselor can help you sort out your reactions to this (these) experience(s).
Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and acute stress disorder are two conditions that can develop following a traumatic event. Both can involve reliving the trauma through intrusive memories or thoughts associated with the event, avoidance of stimuli related to the event (like places, people, smells, sounds, etc), mood changes in association with the event, and changes in behavior in relation to the traumatic event (like angry outbursts, recklessness, being constantly on-guard, and poor concentration.) Acute stress disorder may be seen in the first month after a trauma has occurred, and PTSD develops when symptoms are present for more than a month.
In some trauma cases, dissociation occurs. Dissociation refers to the sense of separation from self or surroundings. Examples of this are feeling detached from the physical body, feeling that you are living in a dream, or that the world around you is unreal or distorted. Sometimes dissociation involves the development of distinct parts of your personality that seem like separate people entirely. Dissociative disorders can develop in conjunction with PTSD if these symptoms are recurrent and severe. In these cases, repeated periods of disconnection to oneself or one's surroundings and interruptions in memory or bodily sensations occur.
It is important to remember that dissociation, hyper vigilance, and avoidance of traumatic stimuli are all adaptive functions of the brain to protect us in times of intense danger or circumstance. These brain functions designed to protect us in moments of danger can continue and go awry once the actual threat of harm is gone.
If you or someone you know if suffering from these symptoms, counseling can help. Please don't hesitate to reach out for support.
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