Psychological Trauma

At this point in time when the world is battling Covid-19 pandemic, it has been widely acknowledged that mental illness has become a parallel pandemic. Many have been infected by the disease while many more suffer its effects in a variety of ways. Studies already show that depression, substance abuse, anxiety and trauma are some of the mental illnesses people suffer as a result of this pandemic. This article looks at psychological trauma.

Most of us will or have experienced trauma at some point in our  life. Statistics show that about 60% of men and 50% of women have had at least one traumatic experience in their lifetime. Psychological trauma or Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as known by mental health experts, represents a major public health concern and calls for wider attention. Just as a physical trauma causes suffering by wounding or disabling the human body, psychological trauma can cause suffering by overwhelming the survivor’s   feelings, thoughts and coping.

PTSD is not a sign of weakness but considered a normal reaction to an abnormally stressful situation one faces. Anyone who experiences the shock of extreme stress will find normal coping skills overwhelmed.

PTSD is characterized by a number of symptoms listed below;

  • Horror from experiencing trauma involving actual or threatened death, serious injury or threat to physical wellbeing of self and others
  • Intense fear
  • Helplessness
  • Re-experiencing of traumatic event through recurrent and intrusive distressing images or dreams of the event.
  • Avoiding situations, places or reminders associated with the trauma
  • Emotional numbness
  • Hypervigilance

Studies have shown that several categories of events may lead to PTSD

  • Catastrophic accidents
  • Human-made disasters (terrorism, war)
  • Natural disasters (floods)
  • Criminal victimization (rape, assault, robbery, battering, child abuse)
  • Workplace traumatic exposure (healthcare workers, the police etc

Majority of the people initially experience very distressing reactions but not everyone will eventually develop PTSD. There are factors that play a role in one developing PTSD including nature of the event, emotional response at the time of the traumatic event and history of mental illness among others.

Survivors of traumatic experiences may benefit from debriefing (emotional and psychological support immediately following a traumatic event) but others may require professional help from counsellors, psychologist and psychiatrists since PTSD can also precipitate other mental illnesses such as depression.


  1. Counseling Survivors of Traumatic Events Andrew J. Weaver / Laura T. Flannelly / John D. 2003 Preston Abingdon Press – Nashville.
  2. BC’s Mental Health and Addictions Journal Vol. No.3 2007
  3. Image retrieved from:

By Letoo James, Dec 8, 2020

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