Trauma and Adverse Childhood Experiences

We often use the terms ‘trauma’ or ‘traumatic’ to describe certain events or experiences in our lives, but why do some people seem to cope better with some situations than others?  What is too much? 

The answer isn’t simple because every experience we have is individual to us. For example two people are involved in the same car crash, neither one are hurt and there is only damage to the vehicles. One person becomes fearful of driving, has panic attacks and struggles with everyday life but the other hops into their courtesy car and drives off like it didn’t even happen!  It doesn’t mean that the person who is having difficulty is any than the other or that they should “pull their socks up and get on with it”, each person copes depends on the how intense the feeling of danger is for the individual.  When we feel threatened (this can be physically, emotionally, mentally or sexually) our mind and bodies ramp up our primitive flight or fight systems.

Way, way back our bodies evolved to recognise danger and make instantaneous decisions on how to avoid or attack and even though we don’t have woolly mammoths trying to stomp on us, our primitive internal alarm systems haven’t changed that much.

What can cause trauma?

Trauma can occur when a person is unable to process an incident that is either physically, emotionally, mentally or sexually threatening. When someone has experienced trauma throughout their lives this is called complex trauma. For some people the event (or events) that psychologically traumatise them do not have to happen to them.  People (including children) who witness accidents, violence, terrorism and prolonged exposure to  emotional abuse and neglect may all display trauma symptoms.

Not on your own

Experiencing trauma can make you feel like you are going through it alone, your reactions to certain circumstances may be confusing or upsetting to others but this doesn’t mean that what you are thinking or feeling isn’t valid.  Pushing the traumatic experiences aside and trying to ‘get on’ with life won’t help in the long term so it is best to seek help as soon as you can.  There are many organisations, therapists and support groups who can help people who want to process their experiences.

Therapy for trauma will help you understand how and why your body and mind reacts the way it does (psychoeducation); how to cope with the after effects and emotions (toolkits) and find support in a non-judgemental, safe environment so you accept what happened and continue to live your life like the amazing individual you are.

If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts or need to talk to someone straight way please reach out to:

  • Samaritans – call 116 123 (free)
  • Shout – text 8528 (free)
  • 111 or if you need medical assistance straight away 999
  • Your GP or local Mental Health Team