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Trauma is any experience that is emotionally overwhelming and is a threat

to one's life or one's physical or emotional safety. It can include things like:


  •  Childhood physical, sexual and emotional abuse

  • War experiences

  • Being in a car accident

  • Being a victim of physical or sexual violence or witnessing violence

  • Being in a natural disaster, such as an earthquake or hurricane



There are also traumas that are less overtly dramatic but do have significant psychological impact, such as:


  • Sustaining an injury, even a mild one if it was sudden and frightening

  • Developing a health problem that is life threatening, such as cancer

  • Having a chronic health problem, such as Crohn's disease or diabetes

  • Undergoing surgery or painful health treatments

  • Losing a loved one, even expected loss, such as a elderly grandparent

  • Chronic childhood emotional neglect


Experiencing trauma can leave a person with PTSD - Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Symptoms of PTSD include things like:


  • Intrusive, repetitive memories of the trauma

  • Nightmares

  • Flashbacks - feeling like you're going through the event again

  • Emotional numbing

  • Feeling irritable, keyed up and unable to relax

  • Trouble sleeping

  • Avoiding reminders of the trauma, such as similar situations, articles or movies

  • Avoiding talking about the trauma, including a fear of discussing it in therapy

  • Being unable to remember some or all of the trauma


PTSD can have a significant impact on a person's life. It can cause tension and distance in relationships and a feeling of being haunted by the trauma experience, as well as very painful discomfort from symptoms like nightmares, bad memories and flashbacks.


Not everyone who has experienced trauma will have PTSD. Some people respond by becoming depressed or anxious. They may develop relationship difficulties related to the trauma, such as trouble trusting others, avoiding intimacy or sexual problems. They may play out aspects of the trauma such as choosing or staying in relationships where they are treated badly or their needs aren't met.


Recent developments in the treatment of PTSD and trauma offer rapid resolution of symptoms. Such treatments include Lifespan Integration and EMDR - Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. These methods focus on briefly triggering the traumatic memory through visualization, then helping the client integrate the memory in such a way that it no longer causes problematic symptoms and behavior patterns. Both Lifespan Integration and EMDR offer a way to treat trauma without the treatment itself being so painful that it re-traumatizes.

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