Basics on trauma

Thoughts, feelings, physical sensations and behaviour can all be influenced by the experience of a traumatic event. The personal response to it depends on the individual, and people who have experienced the same traumatic event may have very different responses.

Most of us experience stressful events in our lives on a regular basis. Stress is a state of arousal or readiness, caused by some stimulus or demand. A modest increase in stress levels usually improves one’s health and performance and within manageable levels, stress can help sharpen attention as well as help people cope with threatening situations . However, at some point, stress arousal reaches maximum effect, all that was gained is then lost and deterioration of health and performance begins. Some events overwhelm almost everyone’s ability to cope.

It is natural to feel afraid during and after a traumatic situation. Nearly everyone will experience a range of reactions after trauma, yet most people recover from initial symptoms naturally. Some people, however, can develop ‘Post-traumatic stress disorder’ (PTSD), which is an anxiety disorder, caused by very stressful, frightening or distressing events.

[1] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2005). A guide to managing stress in crisis response professions. DHHS. Pub. No. SMA 4113. Rockville, MD: Centre for Mental Health Services, Substance Abuse and


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