What is Trauma?
The word trauma (from the Greek) literally means wound, injury, damage by external violence.
Nowadays the word trauma is used to:
- To refer to the shocking event, the traumatic event itself, which leaves deep marks in the person.
- To describe the injuries that a person carries after experiencing a shocking, overwhelming event or being subjected to violence for an extended period of time.
The person has experienced this situation as a real threat to his personal integrity or to his life and has felt completely powerless and helpless in the face of this threat.
Types of traumatic stressors
- Impersonal traumatic stressors:
- Natural disasters, accidents...
- Interpersonal traumatic stressors:
- Criminal violence, rape, sexual harassment, war and terrorism.
- Attachment trauma (between the parent and the child).
- Abuse (physical, sexual, antipathy, psychological abuse, humiliation...)
- Neglect (physical, psychological, social, medical...)
- "Invisible attachment trauma" (The quality of the relationship between parent and child is insufficient to establish a secure bond).
Trauma is the experience rather than the exposure!
Trauma is that what causes dissociation (Howell,2020)
- Cognitive trauma symptoms:
- There may be a distortion in thoughts about oneself, the perpetrator, other people and the world in general.
- An explanation is often sought as to why such a thing happened, partly with the intention of gaining some control over life and making it predictable.
- Sometimes one starts to blame oneself and think one is bad.
- Certain thoughts can contribute to one losing faith and trust in God, justice, or a good future.
- Ideas about oneself (Internal Working Models) develop in four areas namely: self-worth/ safety/ responsibility/ competence.
- Physical trauma symptoms:
- Due to trauma, the body is perceived as unsafe:
- The body is carrying the trauma.
- The body is in pain.
- The body carries the fear.
- Because of attachment trauma, there is an unsafe attachment to the body.
- Because of trauma, there is a splintered body.
- Because of trauma, the body is separated from the self.
- Symptoms: Stomachache, high blood pressure, back and headaches, rheumatic disorders, muscle aches, excessive sweating, hyperventilation, abdominal cramps and cardiac arrhythmias.
- Many psychosomatic complaints can be understood as anxiety equivalents.
- Neurological trauma symptoms:
- Traumatic events have the potential to cause a change in the functioning of the brain.
- The amygdala, which is considered the wake-up center of the brain, is under constant stress.
- A stress response follows with physiological consequences such as increased heart rate, accelerated breathing, increased blood pressure, increased vigilance...a state of hyperarousal.
- Or a reduced state of arousal (hypo arousal) arises from the increased stress and manifests as fatigue, passivity, stiffening of the body, closed off from reality...
- Emotional trauma symptoms:
- Fear, anger, shame, guilt, sadness, aloneness...are common emotional experiences.
- There may be extremely sensitive and exaggerated reactions to situations.
- Emotions are often dysregulated, sudden changes in feelings may occur, and sometimes there is difficulty dealing with negative feelings.
- Sometimes there is difficulty admitting positive feelings and happiness.
- There are difficulties in the regulation of emotions.
- Behavioral trauma symptoms:
- Avoidance of the memory of the trauma is common.
- Sometimes behavior that resembles the trauma-related behavior develops; the maladjusted behavior is imitated, so to speak.
- Avoidance of social contacts.
- Alcohol and drug use.
- Relational trauma symptoms:
- When attachment trauma is present, certain insecure attachment styles are adopted:
- Insecure avoidant attachment style (in adult: reserved style)
- Insecure ambivalent attachment style (in adults: preoccupied attachment style)
- Disorganized style (in adult: anxious attachment style)
- Infanticidal attachment style
- Relationally, one can get caught up in a traumatic bonding with the partner.
- The relationship may get stuck in the trauma triangle (perpetrator/victim/abandoning other)
- Trauma symptoms in relation to forming a coherent self.
- No continuity in the experience of the self
- The self is not developed.
- The self is hidden.
- The self is fragmented.
- Spiritual trauma symptoms
- Loss of values and dignity.
- Loss of hope/ faith.
- Loss of future perspective and goal setting.
- Hatred and retaliation.