About Trauma

SELRES_0.2747346887283471 7SDifferent everyday events may be considered stressful and place a certain amount of stress on an individual, e.g.> the loss of a job, loss of a parent can be considered stressful but over time a person adapts and adjusts to deal with his/her stress, but trauma falls outside of our everyday stressors.

Each person has a different understanding and perspective of trauma. Some people have personal experiences that are traumatic in nature, whilst others have been exposed to trauma stories through the media, hearsay and their work environment. A larger component of Trauma experiences in South Africa are rooted in violence.

A Traumatic incident may lead to feelings of intense fear, helplessness, loss of control and threat of annihilation” Traumatic events overwhelm the ordinary systems of care that give people a sense of control, connection and meaning. [1] Trauma is a subjective experience resulting from an external event, and may lead to any number of physiological, emotional and relational changes in the survivor’s life.

[1] (Herman, 1992)


Trauma is a psychological injury (a wound), and is not a lifestyle stress related crisis such as divorce, losing a house or increased pressure at work. Traumatic stress may occur where there is:

    • Death or a threat of death
    • Serious injury or threat of injury
    • Sexual violence or threat of sexual violence.
    • Threat to personal integrity

Traumatic stress may also exist where these events were experienced in the following manner:

      • First hand: Direct victim
      • Second-hand: indirect victim
      • Repeated or extreme indirect exposure to the details of the event.

A victim can be affected physically, emotionally, psychologically, relationally and even have their belief systems affected. Each person is different and will respond differently to the event and present different symptoms or reactions. Reactions to the traumatic incident may be dependent on –

    • The type of trauma,
    • Its severity,
    • The duration of the incident
    • The victims own coping skills and /or training
    • The victim’s response.


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