Trauma & PTSD Symptoms, Causes, Signs & Side Effects

Psychological trauma occurs to some people directly following a particularly traumatic event. A traumatic event can happen once or can be a series of repeated events that end up completely overwhelming an individual’s ability to cope with the surrounding emotions.

Understanding Trauma & PTSD

Learn More About Trauma & PTSD

The feelings resulting from a traumatic event may become apparent right away or may not manifest for weeks or years later. This depends on the individual as well as the event.

Typically, shock and denial are the most common responses right after an event in an attempt to protect the psyche. Shock is the rapid and intense disturbance of normal emotional states that leaves an individual feeling completely dazed and confused. Denial on the other hand is completely acting as if the event never occurred. Additionally, many individuals feel emotionally numb. Once the initial symptoms of shock and denial subside, reactions will vary among individuals. People react differently to traumatic events; what can cause significant psychological trauma in one person may may not in another who has experienced the same event.

Psychological trauma can lead to serious long-term consequences. It is important that individuals who are suffering from severe traumatic reactions not blame themselves for their reactions. That instead they realize this is a perfectly normal reaction to such a horrible event. It is not clear why some individuals react so strongly to certain events, but it is very common for trauma victims to blame themselves.

If you are struggling from the aftereffects of trauma, the most important thing for you to remember is that you are a normal person who is struggling to make sense of an abnormal situation.

Trauma can be brought on by a variety of events. Typical causes for the development of psychological trauma may include the following:

  • Falls
  • Exposure to violence
  • Sexual assault/rape
  • Sexual abuse
  • Sports injuries
  • Vehicle accidents
  • Harassment
  • Domestic abuse
  • Natural disasters – earthquakes, deadly tornadoes, volcanos
  • Police brutality
  • War or combat injuries
  • Extreme poverty
  • Kidnapping
  • Sudden death of a loved one
  • Adult children of alcoholics

Co-Occurring Disorders

Learn About Co-Occurring Disorders

Many individuals who have experience intense trauma may develop serious co-occurring disorders following the traumatic event. These types of co-occurring disorders may include:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Alcoholism
  • Substance abuse disorders
  • Depressive disorders
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder


Causes of Trauma & PTSD

Just as there is no set course for grief and grieving, there’s not one set way in which individuals will react to the stress associated with a traumatic event. Everyone reacts to traumatic experiences differently. Some may experience symptoms immediately while others may take longer before they begin to notice symptoms. Reactions to trauma do vary over time. Factors affecting recovery include the following:

  • The severity of the traumatic event
  • Event completely unexpected
  • Unprepared for the event
  • Repeated trauma
  • The event was unnecessarily cruel
  • The trauma occurred in childhood
  • Amount of loss sustained
  • The overall ability for an individual to cope with stressful emotional situations
  • Stressful events which may have preceded the traumatic experience

Risk Factors for Psychological Trauma

Not all traumatic events cause traumatic reactions for all individuals. Certain people are more apt to rebound more quickly from trauma while others are devastated by the same event. There are a number of risk factors increasing the likelihood an individual will suffer from traumatic stress following an event. These include:

  • Burden of stress
  • Recent losses in interpersonal life
  • Feeling unstable and unsafe in the environment
  • Serious illness
  • Abuse – sexual, physical, verbal, emotional, financial
  • Domestic violence
  • Bullying
  • Intrusive medical procedures

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and Symptoms of Trauma & PTSD

Many individuals who undergo very traumatic events often struggle with a variety of different symptoms after the event. The severity of these symptoms depends upon the person, the type of traumatic event experienced, and the emotional support received. Symptoms can be varied and differ from person to person and are not always experienced in the same way by all individuals. Common symptoms of trauma include:

Mood symptoms:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Panic attacks
  • Anger
  • Despair
  • Guilt
  • Shame
  • Self-blame
  • Sadness
  • Hopelessness

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Frequent nightmares
  • Insomnia
  • Startled easily
  • Fatigue
  • Edginess
  • Confusion
  • Self-medication with drugs and alcohol
  • Self-harming behaviors
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Social isolation
  • Avoiding certain events that may trigger memories
  • Avoiding certain people

Physical symptoms:

  • Insomnia
  • Racing heartbeat
  • Muscle tension
  • Exaggerated startle reflex
  • Aches and pain
  • Exhaustion
  • Edginess
  • Agitation
  • Muscle tension
  • Dry mouth
  • Tachycardia
  • Headaches
  • Nausea and vomiting

Psychological symptoms:

  • Triggers of the trauma
  • Shock
  • Constant fear
  • Denial and disbelief
  • Flashbacks – the individual may re-experience traumatic events over and over
  • Insecurities
  • Repressed memories
  • Dissociation
  • Emotional numbing
  • Emotional detachment
  • Low self-esteem


Effects of Trauma & PTSD

The effects of untreated traumatic reactions only get worse over time and lead to even more severe symptoms. Trauma needs to be treated as soon as possible before the effects of the event become so severe that an individual is no longer able to function on a daily basis. These effects may include:

  • Substance abuse and addiction
  • Intense fear
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Inability to form attachments to other people
  • Re-experiencing the event
  • Flashbacks
  • Disconnection
  • Emotional numbing
  • Avoiding situations that may remind you of trauma
  • Strained interpersonal relationships
  • Difficulties moving past traumatic event
  • Alcoholism
  • Suicidal thoughts and ideations
  • Death due to suicide

My PTSD caused serious issues in my relationship with my wife. Park Royal helped me overcome my trauma and now I live a better life.

– Anonymous Patient