Any situation that seems to seriously threaten our sense of safety, security and possibly our life can have physical, emotional, and cognitive consequences. These situations are called traumatic events and can include natural disasters, terrorism, physical altercations, robbery, car accidents, physical abuse, violence in a romantic relationship, workplace violence, exposure to combat, sexual abuse and sexual assault. For many people, symptoms typically appear within the first three months following such an event. For some people it may be months or years after the traumatic event before these symptoms may appear.
If someone you know has experienced trauma, some of the symptoms to watch for include:
– Increased sadness and tearfulness
– Isolating and avoiding social situations and family and friends
– Increased fearfulness or nervousness, even in situations the person has been in before or situations that don’t hold any obvious sense of threat
– Using alcohol or drugs more frequently or in greater amounts
– Difficulty falling asleep or seeming “keyed up” at bed time
– Complaints of difficulty concentrating or focusing
– Problems remembering day-to-day events
– Irritability or unusual anger outbursts
– Refusing to discuss the traumatic event or their feelings about the event
– Avoidance of intimacy.
People who suffer with these symptoms do not have to feel this way forever. Many people will experience some of these symptoms but gradually they will improve with time. For others, the symptoms may continue for a longer period of time. It is possible to feel better and to enjoy life again! It may be helpful to talk to a mental health professional if symptom do not begin to improve after a month or so and begin to impact the person’s ability to work and relationships at home or work.
An initial consultation with a mental health professional may help by providing a different perspective about the experiences and their feelings related to the traumatic event. An initial consultation with a psychologist or counselor can help determine if psychotherapy or counseling would be beneficial. Psychotherapy/counseling approaches can typically be completed in 8 to 15 sessions. “Feeling better” is different for everyone. Feeling better does not necessarily mean that a person will be “cured” but people who seek help have a better chance of feeling better than people who do nothing.
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