Psychological Trauma - Symptoms and Causes | Psych Connect

Published on 11th September, 2022

Psychological Trauma - Symptoms and Causes | Psych Connect

Psychological Trauma is a phenomenon that could be viewed as existential in nature, this is because it affects the individual's experiences of the world and distorts one's view in the world. It is generally accepted that trauma comes in different ways and the spectrum of severity may be also extensive depending on the developmental stage of a person as well as factors such as the interpersonal support that the person receives as well as the innate resiliency to bounce back from an adverse life event.

Stolorow (2007) made a philosophical comment when he said "it's a moment of unbearable affect”, meaning that experiencing psychological trauma results in an experience of personal threat to one's safety and/or the integrity of one's identity.

Joseph (2010) argued that psychological trauma is a form of social construct, it is meant to be a form of natural reaction to an event that is deemed traumatic to the self; it may induce intrusive thoughts, images as well as attempts to avoid certain places or events which may remind one of the traumatic events.

Humans are designed to function as an integrated whole. Exposure to a traumatic event affects developmental competencies causing disruption within the child's inner and external worlds. This prevents the child from being able to integrate and process what is happening before them.

Psychological trauma could happen to any one of us after the first year of life, the first year of life is a criterion stated within DSM5 (APA,2013). Onset of symptoms may differ from person to person, there could be a delay of months or years for symptoms to surface (DSM-5, APA,2013) which in the present DSM-5 is known as delayed expression.

American Psychiatric Association (APA,2000; Lodrik, 2007) noted that it could be anything that is being perceived by the individual as traumatic and this could in the form of a motor car accident, emotional abuse, neglect, being bullied and not provided with a safe proximity. Such exposures are seen to harm the physical and/or psychological integrity of self or others. This may include emotions such as intense fear, helplessness, or horror (Rothschild,2000). Waninrib (2006) reported that people who suffer from post-traumatic reactions may suffer from effects such as emotional numbing, intense fear etc for as much as their remaining lifetimes.

According to Greening (2012) a traumatic event itself is existential in nature as encountering trauma could lead one to be highly aroused, being physically vulnerable and the sense of potentially being in the state of being close to death (Sadaavoy,1997).

However, in contrast to the very existential dimensions of being close to death, a break of oneselves' integrity is often ignored in the treatment of PTSD. DuBose (2010) defined trauma as an overwhelming, uncanny or absurd experience, usually involving violence, abuse, or loss, that threatens death or injury to oneself or another, and that resists one's capacitating to process, make meaning of or schematize the occurrence in typical or familiar ways.

While traditional medical terminology refers to uncanny or absurd experiences, the fact that DuBose (2010) also included "overwhelming" indicates trauma could also occur from “normal” experiences. DuBose (2010) reports that the index incident is just the initial spark, the progression to PTSD may be dependent on a few factors such as how one is cared for before, during and after traumatic events. Stolorow and Atwood (1992) further argue that trauma occurs within a relational context and that "pain should not be noted as pathology."