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 Specialist Trauma Trained; neuroscience of trauma, effective assessment, EMDR-resourcing & traumatic processing, guided imagery, motor-sensory processing, bilateral stimulation.

What is Trauma?

"If we are overwhelmed by the threat and are unable to successfully defend ourselves, we can become stuck in survival mode...This highly aroused state is designed solely to enable short-term defensive actions; but left untreated over time, it begins to form the symptoms of trauma. These symptoms can invade every aspect of our lives.."

 (Levine 1999)


Many of us will experience trauma at some point in our lives – an experience that is overwhelming, threatening, frightening, or out of our control. Common traumas include:

  • Being in an accident, such as a road traffic accident, or an accident at work.
  • Being the victim of violence or abuse- physically/emotionally/sexually; being physically or sexually assaulted, imprisoned or tortured, experiencing neglect.
  • Being in a life-threatening situation, such as a war, a natural disaster, or a health emergency.
  • Witnessing violence towards another person, or witnessing a death

Some traumas are isolated one-off events that are unexpected and happen ‘out of the blue’. Other traumas are frightening in different ways: they are expected, anticipated, and dreaded. Some people’s jobs expose them to trauma: military or emergency service personnel often experience or witness distressing events.

 Children can experience trauma too – and the effects can be more profound and long-lasting if the people who were supposed to care for them were responsible for perpetrating harm.

What is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)?

It is normal to be affected by traumatic experiences. Victims of trauma might feel shocked, scared, guilty, ashamed, angry, or vulnerable. With time most people recover from their experiences or find a way to live with them, without needing professional help. However, in a significant proportion of people the effects of trauma last for much longer and may develop into post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Symptoms of PTSD are split into groups [2]:

Re-experiencing symptoms.

Re-experiencing memories of the trauma mean that memories of the event(s) play over and over in your mind. These memories can come back as ‘flashbacks’ during the day or as nightmares at night. The memories can be re-experienced in any of your five senses – you might see images of what happened, but may also experience sounds, smells, tastes, or body sensations associated with the trauma. Emotions from the trauma can also be re-experienced and it might feel as though the events are happening again. Re-experiencing symptoms include:

  • Upsetting memories of the event intruding into your mind.
  • Having nightmares about the event.
  • Feeling physical reactions in your body when you are reminded of the event.

Arousal symptoms.

It is common to be ‘on edge’ or ‘on guard’ following a trauma. You might find it very difficult to relax or find that your sleep is affected. Arousal symptoms include:

  • Always looking out for danger (hypervigilance).
  • Feeling ‘on edge’ or easily startled.
  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep.
  • Problems concentrating.

Avoidance symptoms.

A normal human way of dealing with physical or emotional pain is to avoid it or to distract ourselves. You might try to avoid any people, places, or any other reminders of your trauma. You might try very hard to distract yourself to avoid thinking about what happened. Avoidance symptoms include:

  • Avoid reminders of the trauma.
  • Trying not to talk or think about what happened.
  • Feeling ‘numb’ as if you have no feelings.

Negative thoughts and mood.

Trauma has a powerful effect on how we think. You might blame yourself for what happened, even if it was not your fault. Or you might replay parts of the trauma and think what if …? or “if only …”. Many people with PTSD also experience depression. Negative thoughts and mood about the trauma might include:

  • Negative thoughts about yourself.
  • A sense of guilt about what happened.
  • Feeling depressed or withdrawn.
  • Feeling that no-one can be trusted.

We can separate the effects of PTSD into behaviours.