When someone experiences a traumatic event, life can quickly spiral out of control. Whether it is an injury, accident, death, or a loved one or witnessing something distressing, trauma comes in many forms. Recovering from trauma is not linear, and the effects of a traumatic event aren’t always what people imagine.

Counselling is one of the best ways for people who are living with trauma to process their painful memories safely.

What defines a traumatic event?

Trauma is any experience that causes physical or mental harm. Some examples of traumatic events include:

  • Witnessing or being involved in an accident.
  • Being diagnosed with an illness or medical condition.
  • Becoming disabled.
  • Being the victim of a crime.
  • Physical, verbal or emotional abuse.
  • Being deployed to a war zone.
  • Being a prisoner of war.
  • Natural disasters or terrorism.

There are no qualifying criteria for trauma to be valid. People are traumatized from routine experiences as well, such as the end of a relationship, infidelity, or losing a job. Some people are silenced because people believe their trauma is disproportionate to the situation. They are told to get over themselves because other people have gone through worse experiences; some people are even mocked for their emotions because people think they are “weak” for feeling that way.

A counsellor is trained to help people cope with trauma. Counselling provides a safe, non-judgmental environment to work through feelings and process trauma in a slow, systematic way. It helps people avoid unhealthy coping mechanisms like drinking or doing drugs, withdrawing from loved ones or self-harming.

Counselling also presents an opportunity to treat other disorders that can arise from trauma, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD), anxiety and depression.

Signs of Trauma

The effects of a traumatic event aren’t always easy to recognize. Some people may even find other causes of their symptoms and avoid getting the help they need. Some signs of trauma to note include:

  • Feeling guilty or ashamed of what happened.
  • Taking responsibility for the trauma.
  • Feeling depressed or anxious.
  • Stress, muscle tension, body pain and stomach problems.
  • Difficulty sleeping or wanting to sleep all the time.
  • Changes in mood.
  • Easily started or quick to anger.
  • Reliving trauma through nightmares or intrusive memories.
  • Wanting to be alone all the time.
  • Feeling disconnected from the world, numb or “detached” from one’s body.

Trauma-informed therapy can help you begin to recover. Healing can take months or even years, but with a counsellor’s help, you can move forward and rediscover happiness.