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Psychological Trauma Essay

1756 words - 7 pages

The term “Psychological trauma” refers to damage wrought from a traumatic event, which that damages one’s ability to cope with stressors. “Trauma” is commonly defined as an exposure to a situation in which a person is confronted with an event that involves actual or threatened death or serious injury, or a threat to self or others’ physical well-being (American Psychiatric Association, 2000). Specific types of client trauma frequently encountered by which therapists and other mental health workers frequently encounter in a clinical setting include sexual abuse, physical , or sexual assault, natural disasters such as earthquakes or tsunamis, domestic violence, and school or/and work related violence (James & Gilliland, 2001). Traumatic events tend to overwhelm the ordinary human adaptations to life. The severity of traumatic events cannot be measured in on any single dimension; the primary characteristic of the traumatic event is its power to inspire helplessness and terror. It is also important to realize that a survivor’s experience of the traumatic event is a subjective experience of the objective event. Trauma itself may come in several forms, and there are vast differences among people who experience trauma and the types of reactions trauma elicits in them.
The ordinary human response to danger is a complex, integrated system of reactions that encompass both body and mind. Threats profoundly arouse the central nervous system, causing the body of the person experiencing the danger to initiate an adrenalin rush and go into a state of alert (van der Kolk, 1987). Threats also focus a person’s attention on the immediate situation, creating a loss of faith in any safety, predictability, or meaning in the world, or any safe place to retreat to. The survivors of traumatic events are often unable to process the experiences the mind and body has undergone, as other, normal experiences would be, due to their overwhelming and shocking nature; they are not integrated or digested (Levine, 2000). Van der Kolk (1987) notes that human responses to trauma are relatively constant across various types of traumatic stimuli, where individuals have poor tolerance to arousal stimuli and may experience social and emotional withdrawal. These changes in the body’s arousal and perception prevent the continuance of “normal” life, and require help.
Traumatic events also produce profound and lasting changes in physiological arousal, emotion, cognition, and memory. Moreover, traumatic events may result in the severance of these normally integrated functions from one another. Traumatized individuals may also suffer from the memories of the tragic or horrifying experiences they have undergone. Frequently, as a result of these many symptoms, it becomes inevitable for the individual to develop certain complications associated with trauma-related disorders, such as posttraumatic stress disorder.
Herman (1992) categorizes the symptoms of post-traumatic...

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