Effects of trauma

— Skylight Trust

People who have lived through a single incident trauma, or a series of traumatic events (complex trauma), may have reactions afterwards.​

Traumatic experiences and the reactions to them can be intense. After shocking, frightening or tragic situations (whatever the cause), strong reactions are, of course, understandable. These reactions take place in the brain and by extension trigger the body's response.

Our brains have an 'alarm system' to let us know that we might be threatened or in danger. If a threat is identified, our brain immediately prepares our body to respond by sending biochemical signals to instruct us to fight, flee or freeze. The brain has the control. Each response is designed to protect us, depending on the degree of threat. Often people wonder why, they ran away or stayed and fought, or why they were immobilised.

To give the body energy to respond to whatever might happen next, the brain also unleashes hormones that raise blood sugar, adrenaline levels and heart rate. The body's 'alarm system' also triggers emotional responses after something traumatic has happened. These can be short lived, but in other cases the reactions can be more complex.

Naturally people need time to process what has happened. The body needs time to return to normal. However, if the stressful events keep happening, the brain may get locked into a hyper-alert state. This can be very demanding and exhausting for the person to manage.

Existing health conditions (such as epilepsy, heart conditions, and mental illness) may also be exacerbated, adding more stress and discomfort in a person's life.

In the case of complex trauma, reactions can be long term and can include PTSD, chronic health conditions and may have an impact on your relationships.

If you find your reactions are disrupting your ability to confidently manage your daily routines or relationships, or is impacting on your well being, please seek support.

Resources Available at Skylight

Skylight is here to help you through difficult times. We can assist you in a variety of ways with information appropriate for your situation. You are welcome to visit us and receive free information and a support pack from our resource centre and borrow books from the specialist library. We also facilitate Professional Development training and offer Counselling support services for children, young people, family/whānau and individuals who are experiencing tough times.

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