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trauma and ptsd, mental health awareness

Trauma can profoundly affect an individual's mental, emotional, and physical health. It occurs as a response to a deeply distressing or disturbing event that overwhelms an individual’s ability to cope, causing feelings of helplessness, diminishing their sense of self, and their ability to feel a full range of emotions and experiences. Recognizing the signs of trauma is the first step towards healing and recovery.

What Is Trauma?

Trauma is not just about the events that happen to us but also about our emotional and psychological response to those events. Events likely to cause trauma include emotional and/or physical neglect, health problems, the death of a loved one, exposure to warfare, natural disasters, serious accidents, or violent/sexual personal assaults. However, whether or not you experience “big T traumas” or “little T traumas,” any situation that leaves you feeling overwhelmed and isolated can result in a traumatic experience, even if it doesn’t involve physical harm.

Signs and Symptoms of Trauma

Trauma symptoms can vary widely between individuals but can be broadly categorized into psychological and physical symptoms.

Psychological Symptoms

  • Intrusive thoughts:  Repeated, involuntary memories; distressing dreams; or flashbacks of the traumatic event. Flashbacks may be so vivid that people feel they are re-living the traumatic experience.

  • Avoidance:   Avoiding reminders of the traumatic event, including places, people, and activities that might trigger memories.

  • Negative changes in thought and mood:  Feelings of hopelessness, memory problems, difficulty maintaining close relationships, and decreased interest in activities that were once enjoyed.

  • Increased arousal and reactivity:   Being easily startled, feeling tense or “on edge,” agitated, having difficulty sleeping, and experiencing angry outbursts.

Physical Symptoms:

  • Fatigue:  Extreme tiredness despite adequate sleep, difficulty with concentration, and impaired cognitive abilities.

  • Somatic Symptoms:  Physical symptoms without a clear physical cause, such as headaches, dizziness, stomachaches, and rapid heartbeat.

  • Changes in Appetite:   Under or overeating compared to usual habits.

  • Hypervigilance:  An increased state of awareness that makes it difficult to relax and can lead to exhaustion.

Thought-Provoking Questions for Reflection

1.   Have you recognized any of these symptoms in yourself or someone you care about after a distressing event?

2.   What situations make you feel most on edge, and how do you usually respond to these feelings?

3.   How do you currently cope with stress, and are there healthier ways you might consider?

4.   Who in your life can you reach out to when experiencing signs of trauma, and what stops you from seeking help?  

When to Seek Professional Help

It’s important to seek help if trauma symptoms:

  • Persist for a long time (several months or more)

  • Are severe enough to interfere with daily activities and relationships

  • Cause you significant distress or emotional pain


Understanding and recognizing the signs of trauma is critical for timely and effective intervention. If you or someone you know is showing signs of trauma, consider seeking help from a mental health professional specializing in trauma and PTSD. Healing is possible, and with the right support and intervention, individuals can regain a sense of control over their lives.

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