What is psychological trauma?

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What is psychological trauma?

Post  counselor on Mon Sep 03, 2012 1:04 am

The psychological trauma

"Fear is the sign of an imminent danger.
It is assumed, however, that the danger is avoidable or be faced. When an individual is confronted with a danger which is determined as inevitable or impossible to escape, and you can not get any help, then the only outcome is made. This view is consistent with Freud's (1926) according to which "the core, meaning" the cause of a psychic trauma is "the evaluation of our forces Relate the extent of the danger, the admission of our powerlessness in the face to it. " "(Henry Krystal, control of emotions and narcissism)

Psychological trauma is a type of "damage" (a "weak point", a "wound") that in some cases be experienced by the psyche as a result of critical experience lived by the individual (whether a single event, or an event Repeated or prolonged over time), and which is called traumatic event.

Sigmund Freud formulated definition of a traumatic event for the psichei: it is a single experience, or of a situation protracted in time, the implications of which subjective, ie ideas, knowledge and emotions connected to it, are on the whole superior to the capacity of the subject , to manage or adapt to them, that is to integrate the psyche. According to the janetiano approach, which has largely influenced the theory in this context, the psychological trauma is an event that, due to its characteristics, it is "not integrated" in the psychic system of the previous person, and thus is dissociated from the rest of his psychic experience, causing its psychopathological symptoms.

The traumatic event can be of any type, it usually involves the experience of a sense of helplessness and vulnerability in the face of a threat, subjective or objective, which may affect the integrity and physical condition of the person, contact with death or elements of reality to which his sense of psychological security.

For the "School of Val-de-Grace" (the most important school psicotraumatologica French) trauma is linked to a contact of the subject with the reality of death ("réel de la mort"), when this happens abruptly, not mediated and poison. In the broadest sense of this approach, the psychological trauma is the "absence of meaning and significabilità event" (ie, the trauma is impossible to make sense and meaning, coherent and psychologically viable, an episode that lies "outside" the experience of normal life of the individual).

Typical injuries are abuse, sexual abuse, bullying, domestic violence, bereavement, illness, accidents, physical violence, or verbal, or its threat, other violations or loss of personal safety. Also attend these events can be a traumatic event (in this case we speak of "secondary victims", or even victims of "tertiary" in the case of rescue workers who assist the primary victims).

However, rarely through these experiences, although painful and difficult, determines the development of a real clinical syndrome, or "structured psychological trauma" (PTSD).
Why an extreme event, although very painful, results in a syndrome of trauma structured, you need the help of other personal and experiential factors in the medical history of the individual (such as the phenomena of abuse and neglect in childhood, previous psychological problems, etc. .), as well as in the structure of the network of social support ("social support network").


People who have suffered trauma, often exhibit a variety of symptoms and problems later on. The severity of the trauma varies from person to person, the type of trauma involved and the emotional support derived from other people. A traumatized individual may experience it even more than one.

After a traumatic experience, a person can relive the trauma mentally and physically, so avoid the memory of the trauma, also called color = green] trigger [/ color] (English term meaning "trigger" because it triggers the memory) as this can be unbearable and even painful. The traumatized person may seek relief in psychotropic substances, including alcohol, to try to escape the feelings related to the trauma. Relive the symptoms is a sign that the body and mind are actively struggling to cope with the traumatic experience.

Triggers and symptoms act as reminders of the trauma, and may cause anxiety and other emotions associated with it. Often the person may be completely unaware of these triggers. In many cases this can lead a person suffering from traumatic disorders to engage in destructive or self-destructive coping mechanisms, often without being fully aware of the nature or the causes of their actions.
Panic attacks (DAP) is an example of a psychosomatic reaction to the trigger.

As a result, the intense feelings of anger may emerge frequently, sometimes in very inappropriate or unexpected, and appear to be an ever-present danger, as in fact exist and are the result of past events.
Distressing memories such as images, thoughts, or flashbacks may haunt the person, and nightmares may be frequent.
Insomnia can occur, as well as the hidden fears and insecurity, which keep the person vigilant and attentive to danger, both day and night.

The person may not remember what really happened, while the emotions experienced during the trauma can be revived without the person understands why. This can lead to traumatic events constantly experienced as if they were happening in the present, preventing the subject to get a clear perspective on the experience. This can produce a model of prolonged periods of acute arousal punctuated by periods of physical and mental fatigue.

Over time, you can establish an emotional exhaustion, leading to distraction, and think clearly may be difficult or even impossible. Emotional detachment, as well as the dissociation or insensibillazione, can occur frequently. Dissociate painful emotion means cancel all the emotions, and then you get to desesinsibillazione emotional, which leads the person to appear emotionally drained, preoccupied, distant, or cold. The person may tend to become confused in ordinary situations and have memory problems.

Some traumatized people may feel permanently damaged when trauma symptoms do not disappear and do not believe that their situation will improve. This can lead to feelings of hopelessness, loss of self-esteem, and often depression. If important aspects of the person have been violated , the person may call into question their identity.
Often, despite these efforts, the traumatized parents may have difficulty in helping their child with emotional regulation, the attribution of meaning, and containment of fear post-traumatic after traumatization of the child, which leads to negative consequences for the child. In such cases, the interests of parents and children to their parents, to seek consultation and make sure that their child receives appropriate mental health services.

The immediate support individual, group and individual psychosocial and communities who have suffered a critical event is elective domain of psychology in general; however, the clinical interventions of assessment and intervention of psychological trauma syndromes structured, medium to long- period, elective domain of psychotraumatology.

A number of adults who report histories of childhood compromised by traumatic experiences, sometimes severe and prolonged in time, so as to cover a wide span of their development, is often diagnosed with dissociative disorder or borderline personality disorder, but can also be comorbidities present in other clinical disorders under the DSM-IV.

The specific pattern that is common to many patients who have had a history of developing traumatic (including feelings of emptiness and despair, hostility, and derealization, loss of coherence in the representation of self, irritabiltà, problems with emotional dysregulation, a tendency to self-harm or poor protection staff, and a strong dependence that paradoxically coexists with an avoidant attachment), is called "post-traumatic stress disorder Complex" (Complex PTSD).


In German, the "dream" is indentificato with the word "traum", derived from on old German "Troum", which in turn originated from the term "draumaz" of Proto-Germanic, the latter was in fact influenced by greek "trauma", which means "wound".

From wikipedia

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