Experiencing a traumatic event can be life-changing. Hope House offers counselling that brings understanding and offers coping mechanism to those who are suffering from trauma or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after an event or a loss.

Just as the body goes into shock after a physical trauma, so does the human psyche go into shock after the impact of a major loss.  – Anne Grant

Trauma, lets’ spell it out to help define the journey Hope House offers

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T is for…terrible experience or event

After a trauma, which can take the shape of a serious injury or accident, the physical body often goes into shock: the heart beat speeds up, the body temperature drops and the pupils dilate. In the same way the mind and psyche can go into shock after a traumatic event or a sudden loss – which can be anything from experiencing violent crime, a car accident, rape or natural disaster.

What is the definition of a trauma? Trauma is defined as a deeply distressing or disturbing experience. Trauma takes place when someone “experiences a threat to life, bodily integrity, or sanity”, at least from their perspective (Pearlman & Saakvitne, 1995).

Then what is considered an unhealthy response to trauma?

A psychological trauma response most often starts within three months of the traumatic event, yet often takes years to become plain.

A trauma response is considered a totally normal reaction to a shocking event or loss, but it requires treatment if it continues for too long as it is often unpleasant for the person and can negatively impact their ability to live a full life. It can also be defined as a person’s inability to integrate his or her emotional experience with their current daily life. The more the person believes they are consistently endangered, the worse the trauma will be.

Sometimes we have seen some people traumatised by an event that has left others seemingly unaffected. Everyone responds in different ways, each person also has different support structures, beliefs and coping mechanisms that change how they respond.

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R is for…re-occurring memories or dreams
How do we notice that someone is traumatised? There is one symptom that is closely connected to trauma and that is the unhealthy re-living of events, for example:

– they experience recurrent unwanted and distressing memories of the event
– they have upsetting dreams about the event
– they have flashbacks of the event as if it is actually happening

People suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD often report having flash-backs of the event, where they see a clear memory or experience the event again and again. This is generally a highly unpleasant and emotionally charged experience that can upset the whole day. Someone who is clearly re-experiencing the event may be suffering from Post Traumatic Disorder and would definitely benefit with at least one appointment with a counsellor in order to ask some key questions

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A is for…anxiety

 Anxiety is a key part of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, though this may take years to show itself. A person suffering from Anxiety or anxiety disorder may struggle to fall asleep at night or struggle to get a full night’s sleep. A person experiencing anxiety is often short-tempered or irritable with others, may have repetitive negative thoughts or struggle to keep calm in stressful work environments.
Negative thoughts also often go with the anxiety. A traumatised person often battles with negative thoughts about themselves or others, may feel emotionally numb or feel hopeless about the future.

At Hope House we often start counselling adults who are showing signs of anxiety and find that unprocessed trauma that is at the root of the anxiety. Talking directly about the trauma has great power to heal the anxious symptoms.

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U is for…Understanding of the event

Counselling has great power to bring added understanding to the event. Many traumatic events bring with them intense loss: this can be loss of life and the pain and loss of extreme injury. However there are many types of loss in a trauma, like the loss of innocence, loss of one’s belief in humanity, loss of trust or loss of a feeling of safety. The person suffering from trauma often shrinks back from doing what they did before – they may drive less or prefer to stay at home instead of walking outside or visiting friends. Counseling allows the client to understand the loss they are experiencing, to mourn it and to try to come to terms with their new reality. At Hope House we use play therapy and interactive methods to help our clients come to a deeper understanding of their trauma. Hope House counselors are careful to explore the event without adding their own thoughts about it – allowing the client to carefully come to a greater understanding of the event as they personally experienced it.

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M is for…memories relived and renewed

People suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after an accident, criminal act or abusive incident often need to speak about the event, again and again. A counselor encourages this process and ensures that the client has a space to heal as they speak about the event – this can be anything from a mugging to a hijacking, child-hood abuse or criminal act in the past.

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A is for…Any time

The best time to receive counselling after a traumatic event – is straight away, within a day or a few days of the event. However, clients still can receive great benefit from counselling years or decades after a trauma. Child sexual abuse, criminal events, a parent’s divorce, a traumatic car accident – a whole range of trauma’s can leave effects that are only recognized years later. If left untreated trauma can be at the root of substance abuse, a personality disorder like Borderline Personality Disorder, eating disorders and depression. It still is not too late to seek help, call Hope House to book an appointment if you are struggling with a trauma that took places months, years or even decades ago.

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Check out these interesting facts about Trauma…

Did you know?

You don’t need to see a traumatic even or be present at it to be negatively affected by it. For example a man could be murdered in his home, yet his sister who was not there is deeply affected and unable to leave her home due to fear of the same thing happening to her.

The news in South Africa can also be deeply traumatizing – this is called vicarious trauma. The Franzisca Blogliger murder deeply traumatised the Constantia and Tokai community due to its violent nature and fact that it took place in a public space freely used by so many families and women every day.

 

There are a few types of Trauma: Single blow and Repeat Trauma

Single blow trauma is like a car accident, a natural disaster, a hijacking or falling from a train; it happens once and there is not much a threat of the traumatic event repeating. Repeat trauma includes spousal abuse, verbal and emotional abuse in families and abuse in schools or homes.

 

Trauma has two types of causes: Natural and Man-made

Natural causes of trauma are severe illness, natural disasters or accidents like a fall down Table Mountain while hiking or even a car accident where no driver was clearly negligent. Trauma survivors are far worse affected by traumas that are man-made – caused by the deliberate criminal or malicious action of another person. Where the perpetrator is close to the trauma survivor the damage has been shown to be far worse.


The psychological effects of trauma are worse if the trauma is:

Human caused, unpredictable, occurs in childhood and are perpetrated by a caregiver. These factors all play a role in ensuring that trauma leaves more negative effects in the trauma survivor.

 

If you or someone you care about has gone through a trauma or you feel someone you know is showing signs of trauma or PTSD, please contact Hope House for an assessment or to see when a counsellor is available.