Trauma is a result of psychological distress that is greater than the mind can cope with
The level of produced traumatic effect depends on age, coping skills, resilience, beliefs, previous traumas and life experiences, life stressors around the time of the event, suddenness of the event and help available at the time of the event. When the trauma is accessible to the consciousness, the individual is aware that current symptoms might be connected to the event. Sometimes, the mind copes with the trauma by making it less accessible, the individual might not be aware that current life difficulties have anything to do with what happened, might not remember the trauma, deny, or disregard it as important.
In both cases, trauma produces physiological changes, including recalibration of the brain’s alarm system, an increase in stress hormone activity, and alterations in the system that filters relevant information from the irrelevant. The individual may become hypervigilant, emotionally dysregulated, develop panic attacks, have persistent and intrusive memories or flashbacks, uncontrollable body movements, avoidance, risky behaviours, feeling of being out of one’s body, physical symptoms of stress and anxiety, concentration difficulties, memory lapses, relationship difficulties and difficulties learning from the experiences.
In addition to the physical changes, trauma produces deep emotional and existential effects on the individual. Trauma with its suddenness and unpredictability, destroys previously held meanings, expectations and hopes of how the world and others operate. It renders the sufferer helpless and confused. It may produce a feeling of one part of the self forever destroyed, contaminated, or spoiled with a resulting shame about the event, or guilt at not acting in a different way. The individual may turn against the self and blame the self for how terrified, dependent, excited, or helpless they felt.