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Life will present everyone with upsetting experiences from time to time, but when you witness or experience something deeply distressing, such as an assault, car accident or serious injury, the after effects can sometimes last longer than expected.

Traumatic experiences often involve actual or potential physical or emotional threat to your own or someone else's life, and can leave you feeling overwhelmed and finding it difficult to cope with life as usual.

There are many factors that influence how we react to an intensely distressing event, such as how you made sense of the situation at the time and once time had passed, the level of support available, previous or ongoing life stress, and your personality and how you generally cope with difficult circumstances.

People can respond differently to the same event, both at the time and afterwards. If the usual processes that help us to move on with our lives are interrupted or we ‘get stuck’, problems like low mood, anxiety or ‘post-traumatic stress’ (PTSD) can sometimes develop. Symptoms can include the following:

  • Physical
    • tense and on edge
    • Being easily startled
    • Fatigue and exhaustion
    • Disturbed sleep
    • Ongoing pain after an injury has healed

  • Cognitive
    • Poor concentration and memory
    • Becoming easily distracted or confused
    • Being hyper-vigilant
    • Intrusive thoughts and memories of the event
    • Nightmares
    • Dissociation, depersonalisation, derealisation (essentially, feeling like life is not ‘real’ or you are disconnected from the world)

  • Behavioural
    • Avoiding reminders of the event
    • Social withdrawal and isolation
    • Loss of interest in usual activities
    • Focusing increasing efforts on ‘keeping safe’

  • Emotional
    • Fear and panic
    • Anxiety and worry
    • Low mood
    • Numbness and detachment
    • Guilt or shame
    • Anger and irritability
    • Anxiety and panic

Immediately after such an event, these symptoms are very common and entirely normal. However, if symptoms persist and seem to still be getting worse a month after the event, you should seek help.

With effective trauma-focused psychological therapy, you have every chance of making a full recovery. I can explain complex neuroscience in an easy-to-understand way to help you to understand how your brain, body reactions, thoughts and emotions may have been affected as a result of the trauma. The evidence-based psychological therapies that I am trained in for the treatment of trauma will help you to gain the knowledge and skills that you need to overcome the distressing memories and their negative impact.

For more information about how to deal with trauma, contact Dr Alex.