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Coping with Trauma

Katrina Alilovic

Perth, Western Australia

After being involved in a traumatic incident you may struggle with strong and upsetting emotions, frightening memories or a constant threat of danger. There is no right or wrong way to think, feel, or respond to trauma; try not to judge your own reactions or those of other people. Recovery from a traumatic event is possible. It might not feel like it right this moment, and you might not know how it will happen, but it is possible for the intense reactions to subside and for you to feel safe again, to feel like your normal self.

You may experience a range of reactions (thoughts, feelings and behaviour) in the days, weeks or months after the traumatic event. A trauma can be single event (e.g. assault, work incident, burglary, motor vehicle accident, natural disaster, or it can be a series of repetitive events (e.g. sexual abuse, combat, torture, and domestic violence). Trauma reactions can be felt by both those directly and indirectly involved (e.g., witnesses, rescue workers or relatives of those involved). Remember, it is never too late to get help with posttraumatic stress reactions. There are effective treatments to help with dealing with the emotional and psychological impact you experience.

Signs and symptoms

  • recurrent intrusive recollections of the event (flashbacks)
  • strong feelings such as anxiety, anger, guilt, helplessness, loss of trust, irritability, fear, terror, shock, numbness, sadness, guilt, hopelessness, frustration or depression
  • changes in sleep (e.g. not being able to sleep, or wanting to sleep all the time)
  • recurrent vivid dreams about the event
  • feeling or behaving as if the event were happening again
  • changes in behaviour (e.g. short temper, difficulty concentrating)
  • changes in feelings about yourself (e.g. feeling useless or worthless)
  • numbed responses
  • changes in work effectiveness (e.g. poor concentration)
  • reduced interest in the external world (e.g. feelings of detachment and estrangement)
  • a sense of always needing to be on high alert
  • a sense of being vulnerable, leading to a fear of losing control
  • avoidance of activities and/or places which arouse recollections of the event
  • forgetting an important aspect of the event
  • guilt at surviving, or for things not done

Trauma reactions can be difficult to manage and hard to understand. It is important to remember that the reactions you are having are normal responses to an event that is outside the range of what is considered normal every day events and therefore difficult to assimilate. Getting professional help involves providing you with the tools and skills to be able to confidently manage your physiological and emotional reactions. This is the groundwork of trauma treatment and the base to support the next stages of processing trauma-related memories and feelings. Well-meaning friends or colleagues may encourage you to talk about what happened or 'to let the emotion out' but it is important you are not re-traumatised by doing so before you are ready and prepared.

Not all people who experience or witness the same event will have the same reactions. You may have experienced other potentially traumatic events in your life and not had reactions that were intense or difficult to manage. All these factors can be difficult to understand. Your reactions are not a sign of weakness or not coping. Rather, your mind and body are attempting to process the event, to try to make sense of what happened and your responses. When we are overwhelmed, we can experience a shock response and our capacity to process the event is impaired. With help it is possible to recover from a traumatic event so that you can remember it without crying, feeling distressed and overwhelmed, or having flashbacks.

When to seek further help

  • if you feel disturbed by intense feelings or body sensations that you can no longer easily tolerate
  • if you think that your emotions are not falling into place, and that you feel very tense, confused, empty, or exhausted
  • if a month after the event you continue to be numb and do not have appropriate feelings, or you have to keep active in order not to feel distressed
  • if you continue to have nightmares and poor sleep
  • if you have nobody with whom to share your feelings and you feel the need to do so
  • if your relationships seem to be suffering, or sexual problems develop
  • if you have accidents
  • if you smoke, drink or take medication to excess following the event
  • if your work performance suffers

Katrina has 20 years experience working with clients who have experienced a wide range of traumatic events. She is also experienced in the use of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR),

Katrina is able to provide psychological counselling services to injured workers under the WA Worker's compensation system, WorkCover WA. She has experience working with injured workers with both psychological and physical injuries. Katrina is able to assist you with understanding and processing the physical and psychological effects of your particular incident; to provide assessment for conditions such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder; to provide strategies for pain management and to work alongside you to develop and achieve an appropriate Return to Work Plan.

If you would like to know more or make an appointment please contact Katrina by telephone or email.

Katrina Alilovic

Counselling Psychologist
Telephone: 0428 661 300

Mt Lawley Counselling Centre
13 Alvan Street
Mount Lawely (Perth) 6050

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