Understanding Trauma

Trauma can occur with any experience that overwhelms your ability to cope.

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Trauma can occur with any experience that overwhelms your emotional ability to cope.

Neuroscientists agree with the definition that childhood trauma is caused by any event that feels life-threatening in an age-appropriate way, and overwhelms the brains emotional ability to cope. This leads to behavioural and emotional changes affecting a person throughout their life until healing occurs.

What is the link between trauma and mental illness?

The vast majority of people diagnosed with depression, anxiety, mental illness and addiction have suffered from childhood trauma.

Watch Heal For Life founder, Liz Mullinar explain how childhood trauma physically affects the development of the brain, which impacts the way we think, process emotions and how we behave.

What causes trauma?

Trauma impacts on the development of the brain during childhood and adolescence. Some examples of traumatic events include abandonment, forced separation from either parent, divorce, neglect, bullying, death of a parent or sibling, abuse including verbal, emotional, sexual, physical, spiritual and ritual abuse, witnessing violence and serious childhood illness or accidents. Not being believed causes further trauma. First Nations people also suffer from societal trauma.

What are the signs and symptoms of trauma?

If you’ve experienced trauma, you may be experiencing one or several of these symptoms:

  • Anxiety and/or depression

  • Addictions – alcohol, drugs, sex, gambling, workaholism, excessive spending, people pleasing, perfectionism, obsessive and compulsive behaviours

  • Unexpected crying, despair and hopelessness
  • Feeling unsafe, especially at night

  • Feelings of guilt, self-blame, shame

  • Flashbacks, fearfulness, panic attacks

  • Poor sleep (hard to go to sleep, stay asleep or wake up) wanting to sleep too much, nightmares

  • Irritability, anger and resentment

  • Emotional numbness

  • Self-destructive and impulsive behaviour

  • Disconnection or co-dependency in relationships

  • Low self-esteem

  • Risky behaviours, trouble with the law

  • Decreased ability to concentrate, memory lapses, difficulty making decisions, feeling overwhelmed

  • Self-harm and/or eating disorders

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