Trauma and its Impact


What is trauma?

Trauma is the bodily response when we experience distressing or disturbing experiences. More than the event, it’s about the impact it has on us. Trauma can have an impact on both, our mind and body.

After going through such intense situations, a person may find it very difficult to relax and so are always on the look for a threat. They are overwhelmed with emotions or in denial or still in shock, unable to process what happened. They experience intense feelings of guilt, regret, fear, sadness, and anger, among others. They may also feel confused and disoriented. They may experience flashbacks, nightmares, and unwanted/uninvited thoughts about the events that transpired. 


Some physical symptoms of trauma are as follows:

l  chronic pain

l  sleep problems

l  chest pain

l  headaches

l  gastric problems

l  fatigue

l  racing heart

l  sweating

l  easily startled

l  trembling 



There are some mental health conditions that one can develop due to experiencing traumatic events, and they are:


l  Dissociative disorders

l  Borderline personality disorder

l  Depression

l  Anxiety disorders



What is childhood trauma?


Childhood trauma is when a child experiences or witnesses scary or threatening acts or situations. Childhood trauma plays a huge role in deteriorating a person’s physical, emotional, and mental health.

There are various causes of childhood trauma:

l  physical abuse (eg. hitting)

l  sexual abuse (eg. rape)

l  emotional abuse (eg. withholding affection and attention)

l  neglect (eg. not meeting the child’s basic needs such as food and clothes)

l  abandonment (eg. caregiver abruptly leaving the child alone for unusually long periods of time)


It can also be that someone in their household suffers from substance abuse and or other mental illnesses (not undergoing treatment) which could create an abusive and unstable environment for the child. 


Childhood trauma can hamper brain development. It can put the individual at a lifetime risk of developing physical ailments such as heart and lung disease, poor/damaging interpersonal relationships (eg. intimate partner violence), difficulty in academic or work performance, and vulnerability to various mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, personality disorders, substance abuse disorders, etc. It could also cause self-harming tendencies or in extreme cases, suicide. 


Adult romantic relationships

The impact of childhood trauma may persist even in our adult life. And so naturally, it has an impact on romantic relationships as well. People who have gone through such traumatic experiences may experience low self-esteem, poor emotional regulation, and a distorted sense of self that could make it difficult for them to develop and maintain healthy and meaningful relationships. They may be in romantic relationships that involve violence (intimate partner violence) and may find it extremely difficult to leave or ask for support. They may also have a tendency to indulge in self-abandonment and people-pleasing behaviors -putting the needs of their partner above their own and even fear confrontation to avoid disappointing them, getting them angry, or preventing them from leaving. They could even become more controlling with their partner to avoid such consequences. This also involves having difficulty setting and maintaining healthy boundaries and so they may even become codependent on their partner. This can feel draining and harbor resentment in one or both partners. They often find it hard to trust others, be vulnerable with their partner and require constant reassurance from them that they are still loved and cared for. If they experience a sense of stability in their relationship, it can feel boring because they are more used to their relationships being rocky, unpredictable, hurtful, or chaotic. Due to their insecure attachment styles, they may end up sabotaging their relationship and eventually regret it.


Children and adults who are victims of abuse could greatly benefit from psychological interventions to help them gain a safe space and the support they need to recover and improve their overall quality of life.