More about Trauma
What is trauma?
In dangerous situations, our defence system produces an adrenalin rush which helps us to be alert and to either fight or run. Traumatic reactions happen when we are overwhelmed and cannot fight or run. This can produce traumatic changes in the body and mind.
Being on permanent alert. You expect danger at any moment. This may result in being easily startled, reacting irritably to small things, not being able to sleep and eat as normal, or feeling intense fear and anxiety.
Long term effects
Your self-esteem and personal power can be affected. The experience of sexual violence violates your boundaries and your sense of control in the world. Sexual violence can make you feel that your feelings or decisions are of little value.
You may carry guilt and shame, feel self-destructive or suicidal, or be addicted to alcohol or other drugs. The trauma may lead to mental illness. This can affect your expectations of how you should be treated and how you relate to others. Talking about your story and being believed can be a big step in regaining power and control in your life and in building up your sense of self-worth.
You may have developed an eating disorder, an addiction or another physical illness connected to your experience. If you find it hard to look at your body and listen to the messages it gives you, support and counselling can be a great help in learning to deal with this.
You may have survived the experience of sexual violence by going emotionally numb or by blocking out physical pain. Being numb worked for you – it got you through the trauma. You may have used it to survive ever since. Feeling the anger, fear, grief and sadness that you could not feel back then may be too scary. This may mean you can't feel the good emotions either or that you can't tell the difference between them. It is possible to recover and to feel a full range of feelings.
If you had a trusting relationship with your abuser, either from chatting to him or her for a short while or because he or she was a relative, you may now find it hard to trust anyone, to have close friends or to have a healthy and non-abusive relationship. You can change these feelings over time as you regain control over your life. Support from a friend or a counsellor can be a great help.
When there has been abuse, you may find you link sex with bad things. You may have disconnected from sexual feelings during the trauma. You might have been told that you didn't matter and that all you are good for is sex. Today, you may have difficulties in sexual relationships. Having sexual feelings may make you feel shame, disgust, pain or humiliation. You may find it impossible to have any sexual contact. You might find yourself looking for sex you really do not want or you might find it hard to say no. You may have had partners who have sexually abused you.
Over time, you can learn to identify your needs and to look after yourself. You can learn to build a safe and enjoyable sexual relationship and to work through the feelings of shame that might have been with you for a long time.