Trauma and PTSD

What is the difference between Trauma vs PTSD

Trauma in it self is not an uncommon experience and can occur at different periods of our lives; either through a direct personal incident or witnessing an incident or event. Although trauma and PTSD is closely associated, not all traumatic incidents advance into PTSD. However if you have been diagnosed with PTSD, you must have experienced some event that has traumatised you in some way.


The harshness of the trauma is not the main criteria for PTSD event; it is identified by the severity and the length of the symptoms. If we look at a traumatic event, we see that the mind and the body have undergone some unfamiliar blow, upset or disturbance or shock. Almost everybody has experienced at least to some degree this experience. Even a visual experience causes tension in the body, it may have been a nightmare, a near accident or a fearful event causing anxiety then followed by repetitious thoughts about the event; the body is reminded of the stress and is repeated each time the mind recalls the experience.


This replay is the way the mind and body eventually rationalises these events. For most people these replays will ultimately run their course and eventually the mind will over some weeks, distance it self from the event until ultimately the symptoms gradually dissipate; this is Normal Response to Trauma (NRT). The distinction with PTSD is that the symptoms don’t decrease; anxiety increases and people will continue feeling worse.


Traumatic events that can result in PTSD

Anyone could suffer from PTSD as a result of an event which could include:

Natural disasters, War or terrorism, Rape, Motor vehicle accidents, Physical and sexual assault, Plane crashes, Sudden death of a loved one, Abduction, Childhood neglect etc.


Symptoms of PTSD

The symptoms of PTSD occur when a survivor of trauma becomes stuck and can not return to normality and the symptoms become worse over time such as:


  • Nightmares and flashbacks of the experience
  • Have trouble sleeping
  • May feel detached or estranged from life and family.
  • Phasing out and loosing time
  • Intense physical reactions to reminders of the event (e.g. pounding heart, rapid breathing, nausea, muscle tension, sweating)
  • Avoidance of activities, places and numbing symptoms when confronted by activities and thoughts that remind us of this event
  • A lack of interest in life, activities and isolation from people


Arousal Symptoms Include

  • Feeling anxious, on guard, irritable, being easily startled, hypervigilant, and difficulty concentrating.
  • Depression, feeling alienated and alone, substance abuse, anger, guilt – shame or self-blame, suicidal thoughts, cognition problems, physical aches and pains, addictions, breakdowns in family life, divorce, social life, occupational instability, difficulties in parenting and a dampness in response to pleasure


Some times symptoms can take weeks, months, or even years before they appear. The problem with PTSD is that if it is not treated as it is identified it begins to inhibit and reduce our rational neuron growth, these neurons are destroyed by stress hormones when we relive the fear of these experiences, rather than growing through rational experiences (just like a muscle that is extended, it grows).


The less you use and exercise the need for this neuron growth; the more they start to diminish, and in this case, rather severely through the added repetitious stress caused by the enactment of the horror associated with the event.




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