What is psychological trauma?

Psychological trauma is an ‘invisible psychological injury’ caused when someone experiences a sudden and brutal life-threatening event (for the victim or someone else) or a serious attack on his or her physical and/or psychological and/or sexual integrity. This (potentially) traumatic event happens unpredictably, uncontrollably and unexpectedly.

These traumatic experiences can, for example, occur as a result of physical assault, sexual violence, domestic violence, traffic accidents, attacks, incest, domestic abuse, etc.

What are the psychological consequences?

Faced with the trauma, some individuals will be able to adapt and cope with the situation or even overcome it. For others, the psychological shock will lead to extreme horror, which invades their thoughts, actions and emotions.

Typical symptoms of psychological trauma include reliving the traumatic event (‘as if it had just happened’), avoidance behaviours (e.g. avoiding situations or places that may closely resemble the situation, people, places), hyper-vigilance, disturbances in mood, sleep, concentration, etc., as well as other associated disorders.

How long does psychological trauma last?

Whatever happens, these reactions are normal and are how your mind/brain copes with an event perceived as abnormal, extremely stressful or violent. In the first days after the offence, symptoms may appear and last for a few weeks to a month. Sometimes the symptoms appear several months after the event. During this latency period, no symptoms are observed. In some cases, these symptoms may subside and have no further consequences.

Each time, the difficulties may vary in frequency and intensity. Victims should seek the advice of a professional trained in psychological trauma when these difficulties interfere with daily life. They will give you valuable advice and direct you to resources suited to your particular situation. If 30 days after the trauma happened, you are still experiencing these symptoms, it is important that you are able to approach a professional who can deal with your difficulties.

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