Psychological trauma destroys our feeling of security. An overwhelming feeling of helplessness and powerlessness eats away at our basic sense of trust, undermining our self-respect.
The consequences of this can be panic attacks, depression, sleep disturbances, chronic pain or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). These all have severe adverse effects on the life of those affected – often for years after the traumatic events.
Many people can process their experience of a road traffic accident or a natural disaster without feeling overly affected in the long term. However, for survivors of torture, ongoing persistent partner violence or sexualised violence in a conflict context, over half of them report that they suffer from long-term consequences (psychological, physical and social) of the experience.
Intensity and duration of psychological trauma
The severity and persistence of these consequences is dependent not only on the severity of the traumatic events, but very significantly on the experiences which the affected person has afterwards. Do they experience ongoing insecurity, perhaps in the form of violence or poverty? Are they being stigmatised or excluded? If so, then people affected by trauma will have a much harder time trying to process and cope with their experiences.
Traumatic experiences can affect people as individuals (personal / individual trauma) or they can affect many people within a group (collective trauma).