- Road accidents
- Violence (including domestic violence)
- Child abuse
- Sexual assault or rape
- Serious medical illnesses
- Natural disasters
Both adults and children can be victims of abuse and trauma. With children, their caregivers and teachers need to identify the signs of abuse or trauma and make sure they seek appropriate help.
What happens when you experience abuse or trauma?
During any traumatic experience, the body’s stress defense system gets activated and can cause:
- Raised blood pressure
- Increased heart rate
- Increased sweating
- Loss of appetite
- Aggressive response or panic (fight or flight)
- Involuntary passing of urine
- Passing out
These natural responses usually subside within a short period with or without medical help.
What are the effects of abuse and trauma?
The effects of abuse and trauma (with or without other various underlying mental disorders) can give rise to various illnesses, such as:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder: This condition may last for months or years, with triggers that can bring back memories of the trauma accompanied by intense emotional and physical reactions, which are difficult to manage.
- Misusing alcohol or drugs: The person may abuse substances to temporarily dissociate from the traumatic experience and associated negative thoughts.
- Borderline personality disorder: Someone with this disorder is usually unable to control their emotions, experiencing extreme mood changes and behavioral fluctuations.
- Severe anxiety, stress, or fear: Anxiety attacks can sometimes become extremely difficult to manage, causing difficulty breathing or extreme thoughts of self-harm.
- Depression: Commonly associated with low energy levels, loss of interest, and sleep disturbances, depression makes it difficult for the person to carry on with their daily routine.
- Eating disorders: Serious eating disorders are marked by bingeing, followed by methods to avoid weight gain, such as intentionally vomiting. Eating disorders can lead to obesity or malnutrition and associated diseases.
- Self-injury and suicide: Sometimes people may self-harm to distract themselves or get away from the flashbacks of the traumatic event. In extreme scenarios, it can lead to suicidal ideation.
What to do after events of abuse and trauma
- Turn to others for help: It can be extremely difficult to talk about the incident to even close friends or family members. However, keeping traumatic thoughts to yourself can be detrimental to your mental health. Simply talking about the experience can help you release pent up feelings and start the road to recovery.
- Take care of yourself: Eating a good diet, exercising regularly, spending time on hobbies and interests, avoiding substance abuse, etc. can help improve your overall health.
- Seek professional help if needed: If symptoms are too difficult to be self-managed and you are unable to carry out daily activities or having suicidal thoughts, it’s important to seek professional help. Appropriate medication and therapy can make a huge difference. Community mental health support groups, abuse and trauma support groups, or group therapy can also be extremely helpful.
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Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (US). Trauma-Informed Care in Behavioral Health Services. Rockville (MD): Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (US); 2014. (Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 57.) Chapter 3, Understanding the Impact of Trauma. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK207191/
HelpGuide. Emotional and Psychological Trauma. https://www.helpguide.org/articles/ptsd-trauma/coping-with-emotional-and-psychological-trauma.htm
SAMHSA. Trauma and Violence. https://www.samhsa.gov/trauma-violence
International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies. Effects of Childhood Trauma on Adults. https://istss.org/public-resources/trauma-basics/what-is-childhood-trauma/effects-of-childhood-trauma
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