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  • Sonya Deol

Trauma and PTSD: How They Connect

Updated: Jun 2, 2023

magnets with words about trauma and emotions

What is defined as trauma?

Trauma can be described in many different ways, including the following:

“Trauma is not what happens to you, it’s what happens inside you as a result of what happened to you.”

- Dr. Gabor Mate

Depending on how your mind perceives something as threatening, trauma can develop. Feeling terrified can make you feel helpless, out of control, and unsafe. This can shape you as a person on several levels: cognitively (thoughts), emotionally (feelings), and physiologically (sensations).

A scary, dangerous, or shocking life event that has been perceived as traumatic may lead to a serious mental condition know as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Common examples of traumatic life events can be car accidents, assault, combat, or witnessing harm against another person amongst others. The COVID-19 pandemic has also been shown to increase the risk of triggering symptoms of PTSD as a traumatic event.

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What are the symptoms of PTSD?

The symptoms of PTSD include:

  • intrusive memories of the event

  • recurring nightmares

  • avoiding thoughts and memories related to the event

  • isolating from family and friends

  • overthinking and worrying too much

  • losing interest in activities

  • difficulty concentrating

  • trouble falling or staying asleep

  • irritability and anger

  • fearing others and the world around you

Symptoms of PTSD may begin immediately after the trauma up to several weeks, months, or years later. Not everyone who experiences a traumatic event will show signs of PTSD.

Are certain people more at risk?

Some factors may put people at a higher risk of developing PTSD:

  • having a history of mental illness or substance use disorder

  • experiencing past traumatic events

  • having limited support after the traumatic event

  • feeling guilt, shame, or responsibility for the event

  • getting physically or emotionally hurt

  • seeing someone else being harmed

Protective factors can decrease the risk of PTSD:

  • having a strong support system

  • having solid coping tools and strategies

  • joining a support group after a traumatic event

  • creating a sense of safety

  • being able to respond effectively when faced with fear

Complex PTSD, or C-PTSD, is another term used to describe a response to long-lasting trauma. There is often a distinction made between PTSD which is caused by a single event and C-PTSD which is caused by repeated events over months or years. Childhood trauma, for example, can be defined as complex and usually results in C-PTSD. Oppression and racism can add layers to complex trauma because of the associated harmful effects on a person’s wellbeing.

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How can PTSD be treated?

Recovery from PTSD is possible, and each journey is unique. Receiving counselling support can be helpful in learning coping strategies, processing the trauma, and healing. Counselling techniques such as cognitive behavioural therapy and EMDR Therapy can be beneficial in treating trauma. Seeing a psychiatrist or family doctor for medication can help treat related depression, anxiety, and sleep problems. Often a combination of both therapy and medication can be useful. Different approaches will work for different people so it’s important to be appropriately assessed for PTSD by a mental health professional and find the best treatment.


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