Stress, Anxiety and Trauma

If you’ve experienced an extremely stressful or disturbing event that’s left you feeling helpless and emotionally out of control, you may have been traumatised. 

Psychological trauma can leave you struggling with upsetting emotions, memories, and anxiety that won’t go away. It can also leave you feeling numb, disconnected, and unable to trust other people. 

When bad things happen, it can take a while to get over the pain and feel safe again. But with help, strategies and support, you can speed your recovery. Whether the trauma happened years ago or yesterday, you can make healing changes and move on with your life.

What is emotional and psychological trauma?

Emotional and psychological trauma is the result of extraordinarily stressful events that shatter your sense of security, making you feel helpless in a dangerous world. 

Traumatic experiences often involve a threat to life or safety, but any situation that leaves you feeling overwhelmed and isolated can be traumatic, even if it doesn’t involve physical harm. 

It’s not the objective facts that determine whether an event is traumatic, but your subjective emotional experience of the event. The more frightened and helpless you feel, the more likely you are to be traumatised.

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One-time events

such as an accident, injury, natural disaster, or violent attack

Ongoing, relentless stress

such as living in a crime-ridden neighborhood or battling a life-threatening illness

Commonly overlooked causes

such as surgery (especially in the first 3 years of life), the sudden death of someone close, the breakup of a significant relationship, or a humiliating or deeply disappointing experience

An event can lead to trauma if:

•It happened unexpectedly.

•You were unprepared for it.

•You felt powerless to prevent it.

•It happened repeatedly.

•Someone was intentionally cruel.

•It happened in childhood

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Risk factors

While traumatic events can happen to anyone, there are risk factors that make some of us more likely to experience psychological trauma following a disturbing event. 

You’re more likely to be traumatised if you’re already under a heavy stress load, have recently suffered a series of losses, or have been traumatised before—especially if the earlier trauma occurred in childhood.


We all react in different ways to trauma, experiencing a wide range of physical and emotional reactions. There is no “right” or “wrong” way to think, feel, or respond, so don’t judge your own reactions or those of other people.

 Your responses are NORMAL reactions to ABNORMAL events.

Emotional & psychological symptoms:

•Shock, denial, or disbelief

•Confusion, difficulty concentrating

•Anger, irritability, mood swings

•Anxiety and fear

•Guilt, shame, self-blame

•Withdrawing from others

•Feeling sad or hopeless

•Feeling disconnected or numb

Physical symptoms:

•Insomnia or nightmares


•Being startled easily

•Difficulty concentrating

•Racing heartbeat

•Edginess and agitation

•Aches and pains

•Muscle tension

Trauma symptoms typically last from a few days to a few months, gradually fading as you process the unsettling event. But even when you’re feeling better, you may be troubled from time to time by painful memories or emotions—especially in response to triggers such as an anniversary of the event or something that reminds you of the trauma.