The effects of trauma

Domestic violence survivors can face ongoing and challenging effects of abuse.

People who have experienced a traumatic event often experience shame and confusion about why they responded in the way they did.

For example 'why didn't I fight back or run away?'

However we actually have very little control over our brain's defence mechanisms, and whether in the moment we chose fight, flight, freeze, friend or flop.

Trauma Therapist Evelyn talks about the effect of trauma on the brain in the video below.

How trauma affects our brains, bodies and relationships.

Recovering from trauma

It can take time to adjust to living in a safe environment, especially if a perpetrator was severely controlling and/or violent and committed the actions over an extended period of time.

On the journey to recovery, survivors and those who support them should understand that healing takes time.

The effects of this trauma can vary widely person to person as responses to stress, age, and the frequency and severity of abuse are individual.

Symptoms can include:

• Depression, including prolonged sadness
• Anxiety
• Low self-esteem and questioning sense of self
• Suicidal thoughts or attempts. If you or someone you know is feeling suicidal contact:
• Alcohol and drug abuse
• Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), including flashbacks, nightmares, physical sensations such as sweating, nausea or trembling.

The effects of trauma

PTSD occurs when trauma is not processed properly, and 'filed away' in the way that other memories are. Triggers such as sounds, smells and words can cause you to involuntarily and vividly re-experience the trauma.

The effects of trauma

Other symptoms of PTSD include:

  • Trying to avoid people or places that remind you of the trauma, which can be extremely limiting.
  • Being anxious and finding it difficult to relax, including being constantly aware of threats and easily startled. This can lead to irritability, angry outbursts and trouble sleeping.
  • Negative changes in believes, such as struggling to have positive or loving feelings towards other people; thinking the world is completely dangerous and no-one can be trusted; developing negative feelings towards yourself.

If you're supporting someone who has been through a traumatic experience, be aware that outside of specialist therapy talking in detail can have an adverse effect. it can cause the person to 're-live' their trauma and reinforce feelings of vulnerability.

If you're experiencing symptoms of PTSD, you can find a selection of grounding techniques and strategies for dealing with flashbacks in our self care section.