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What Is Trauma?

Imagine how you would feel if you witnessed a car accident in which two people were killed. What if you were on vacation and suddenly confronted by a man with a gun? Experiences like these are called “traumatic stressors.” They can profoundly affect you and your life for months or even years.

Trauma occurs when you have been exposed to an event that involves a serious threat to you or someone close to you. The threat may be violent or non-violent. Many people believe that a trauma can only be something big like an accident or natural disaster. Research has shown us this is completely untrue. Our bodies generate a traumatic response any time we feel threatened or unsafe.

Examples of Traumatic Events

A trauma is any event that: emotionally overwhelms a person, creates a feeling of emotional, physical, or mental threat, and that in turn generates a fight, flight, or freeze response. Then, if a person is not able to recover from that event naturally and restore equilibrium, post-traumatic stress begins and escalates.

Some examples you might not think of as traumatic are:

  • School entry
  • Bullying
  • Choking
  • Neglect
  • Attachment difficulties
  • Near-miss experiences
  • Verbal abuse
  • Separation or divorce
  • Witnessing an accident with fatalities
  • Sudden death of a family member or a friend
  • Death of a parent who is suffering from a terminal illness
  • Being diagnosed with a serious illness
  • A family member commits suicide
  • Facing a very difficult surgery
  • And much more!

Call Today to Speak to me

Rather than struggle through this difficult time, turn to Newfound Hope Counselling Centre for help so that you can move forward with your life. For more information about your options for trauma counselling or to set up an appointment, call Newfound Hope Counselling Centre today.

How Trauma Happens – The Fight, Flight or Freeze Response

All of the information that we receive is absorbed into our brains through our senses. What we see, smell, hear, taste, and touch. The first place it travels is to the mid-brain where our emotions are located. The mid-brain acts like a gatekeeper and alerts me to any kind of danger.

If there is no danger detected, the information continues up to the neo cortex where it is understood, processed and stored in our memory as past tense. If danger is detected, the autonomic nervous system is activated and two stress hormones are immediately released – adrenalin and cortisol. Adrenalin is the hot flush or hotness that you feel when you become aroused. It can make you feel energized. Cortisol works in the opposite way; its function is to slow or shut down the thinking part of the brain.

Your body goes into survival mode – it’s the fight, flight or freeze response. Your body tenses, heart races and breath quickens.

When a traumatic event occurs, it is likely that it is constantly “on your mind” even if you don’t realize it. All the while, the mid-brain (the emotional gatekeeper) is trying to do its job and place the event into the neo cortex where you can make sense of it and commit it to memory. But the event can’t get past the gate. It is stuck there.

As this is happening, you may be experiencing flashbacks and feelings replaying over and over. They are so distressful that they keep you in a constant state of agitation.

What Happens After a Traumatic Event

During this time, your ability to think logically, to rationalize and to make decisions is compromised. Your emotions are more exaggerated and intense. You are more easily prone to irritability, frustration, and anger outbursts. You may feel more depressed and anxious. Your concentration and focus is poor. You will have lapses in short-term memory, often forgetting things, and you are hyper-vigilant and jumpy. These are all common post-traumatic symptoms. They may be frightening and chances are, you don’t understand why they are happening to you.

Children & Trauma

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD can be terrifying for adults. You may feel your world is falling apart. If your child has suffered a traumatic event the symptoms are amplified. Like adults, their sense of safety is shattered and feelings of trust are gone. The effects of trauma on children can be devastating.

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