An Overview of Psychic Trauma
and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PSTD)
5. What are the effects (immediate and long-term) of prolonged,
The immediate effects of prolonged trauma are the same as for
one-time trauma, only they recurs with each new wave of traumatic
experience. The long-term effects include Post-traumatic
Stress Disorder, Complex Post-traumatic Stress Disorder,
and a variety of mental and physical illnesses.
6. What can be done to help survivors immediately after a trauma?
Crucial to helping someone survive trauma is realizing that you,
too, are affected by the trauma, that deciding to help is a big
commitment, and that you need helpers, too.
One of the best ways to help a traumatized person is simply
to listen compassionately and actively, and make the person
aware that you are willing to listen. Reassure the person that
there are realistic ways to make it okay, that s/he can survive,
that you are willing to help.
Offer practical assistance -- running errands, cooking,
whatever needs to be done. Don't just ask; if you see that
something needs doing, suggest that you do it. This is much more
effective than simply saying, "If there's anything I can do..."
DO NOT criticize the person's reaction, minimize the trauma,
suggest it was fate or God's doing, minimize the person's
feelings or say you know exactly how they feel (a very subtle
way of minimizing feelings. Do not interfere with actions
the person has chosen to take unless they are endangering
self or others. If you think an action is too extreme, encourage
the person to slow down and talk it through.
7. What is PTSD?
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is the name given
to a cluster of symptoms often seen in trauma survivors.
The more severe the trauma, the longer these symptoms will
persist. In cases of major and/or repeated trauma, strong
reactions may continue for years.
Symptoms of PTSD can include:
• Hypervigilance and scanning
• Elevated startle response
• Blunted affect, psychic numbing
• Aggressive, controlling behavior (a high degree of insistence
on getting your way)
• Interruption of memory and concentration
• Generalized anxiety
• Violent eruptions of rage
• Substance abuse
• Intrusive recall -- different from normal memory in that
it brings with it stress and anxiety
• Dissociative experiences, including dissociative flashbacks
• Suicidal thoughts
• Survivor guilt