Trauma is the overwhelming of people’s ability to cope as a result of being unable to escape form a stressful event. The ability to cope is unique to each person. Some people’s coping mechanisms are not strong and so they will experience trauma quicker than others. How people experience trauma is also unique. Some will become obviously distressed, while others will be quiet and withdrawn. Some will play over and over in their minds the traumatic event, others will shut out the event, but nevertheless display signs of distress. Some will become irritable and argumentative while others will become clinging and dependent. It can only be said that if people are not their usual self after experiencing a stressful event, then it is likely that that event has been overwhelming. It is a problem when a person is unable to resume his/her life before experiencing the stressful event. This excludes when a traumatic event causes the person to re-evaluate his/her life and consciously chooses to be different or take a different course in their life.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PSTD) involves well known psychological reactions to extreme forms of stressful events. These extreme forms of stress involve exposure to actual or threatened death, serious injury or sexual violence. Reactions can include suffering recurrent unwanted memories of the event, distressing dreams, intense or prolonged distress to reminders of the event, physiological reactions to reminders of the event, avoidance or efforts to avoid memories, thoughts or feelings associated with the event, avoidance of or efforts to avoid reminders of the event, significant changes in thinking, memory, emotional state, belief in a persons sense of control over his/her life, safety and abilities, marked changes in behaviour, reactions and sleep. All these changes must persist for longer than a month and cause significant distress and impairment.
It is recognised that Children 6 and under can suffer PSTD, although with different symptoms.
Similar to trauma, people have different levels of ability to cope, so some will develop PSTD while others do not. What is interesting and important about PSTD is that whilst it is classified as a mental disorder, the experiences of people with PSTD are considered to be a normal response to an abnormal event. It is classified as mental health disorder because the trauma is so overwhelming that people need help to adjust.