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What is trauma?

Trauma is a condition that results from a set of circumstances, a series of events, or a harmful or threatening event that an individual experiences emotionally or physically. This event can have long-lasting adverse effects on the individual's social, emotional, physical functioning and well-being.

What are its main signs and symptoms?

Mental responses to a traumatic event include:

  • Reduced memory and concentration
  • Disturbed thoughts about the event
  • Confusion
  • Parts of the event repetitively playing in the mind

Physical responses to a traumatic event include:

Behavioural responses to a traumatic event include:

  • Changes in appetite
  • Drifting away from regular routines
  • Sleeping issues
  • Getting engrossed in tasks related to recovery
  • Developing habits of cigarette, alcohol and coffee consumption
  • Inability to stop thinking about the event
  • Avoiding any memories associated with the event

Emotional responses to a traumatic event include:

  • Panic, anxiety, and fear
  • Feeling emotionless
  • State of shock
  • Feeling confused and detached
  • Moving away from people and not wanting to connect with them
  • Feeling like the event is still happening and that there’s danger around
  • Feeling of exhaustion after the event is over
  • Feeling let down after the event is over
  • Experiencing feelings of guilt, depression, avoidance, and oversensitivity during the let-down phase

What are the main causes?

Experiencing the following events could trigger a traumatic response in a person:

  • Loss
  • Physical and sexual abuse
  • Community, domestic, workplace violence
  • Crime
  • Natural calamity
  • Feeling of deprivation
  • Traumatic sorrow
  • Medical procedures, injury or illness

How is it diagnosed and treated?

Trauma is diagnosed when an adult has all of these symptoms for more than at least a period of one month:

  • At least two reactivity and arousal symptoms
  • At least one of the re-experiencing symptoms
  • At least two mood and cognition symptoms
  • At least one of the avoidance symptoms

Trauma is treated using:

  • Cognitive behavioural therapy
  • Exposure therapy
  • Cognitive restructuring
  • Systematic desensitisation
  • Anxiety management
  • Stress reduction therapy
  • Eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing
  • Antidepressants and other medications.

 

  1. Medicines for Trauma

References

  1. Missouri Department of Mental Health [Internet]: Missouri State; What is Trauma?
  2. Better health channel. Department of Health and Human Services [internet]. State government of Victoria; Trauma - reaction and recovery.
  3. National Institute of Mental Health [Internet] Bethesda, MD; Models of Trauma Treatment. National Institutes of Health; Bethesda, Maryland, United States
  4. Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (US). Trauma-Informed Care in Behavioral Health Services. Rockville (MD): Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (US); 2014. (Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 57.) Chapter 3, Understanding the Impact of Trauma.
  5. Center for Disease Control and Prevention [internet], Atlanta (GA): US Department of Health and Human Services; Helping Patients Cope With A Traumatic Event .
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