Oncologist Dr. Belinda Yeoh and a patient



What is Trauma?

The experience of trauma often involves exposure to a life-threatening situation or event. This experience may cause individuals to feel extremely frightened and as though they have no control over what is happening, disturbing their sense of security, and leaving them feeling helpless and overwhelmed.

Some trauma can bring about reactions that feel unfamiliar and strange. These reactions may negatively impact on a person's health and wellbeing, relationships, employment, and other aspects of their life. Left untreated, psychological trauma can diminish the person's quality of life, and that of their family.

People react to trauma in different ways. While some are comfortable speaking about their experience and actively seek help in dealing with it, others may simply not know how to get help, or feel too frightened or threatened to seek it. Others, again, may perceive feelings of distress as a weakness, and simply try to 'get on with things'.

Following the experience of trauma, it is common for individuals to have any, or all, of these responses:

  • Disturbed sleep;
  • Intrusive and upsetting memories of the experience;
  • Emotional distress, such as anger or sadness, or feeling numb and disconnected;
  • Thinking a lot about the experience;
  • Keeping busy in order to avoid thoughts and feelings about the experience; and,
  • Feelings of grief.

If feelings of distress and behavioural changes resulting from trauma persist, there is a chance they may develop into more serious conditions, such as PTSD, major depressive disorder, another anxiety disorder, substance abuse disorders, or pathological gambling.

All of these reactions are natural and, in time, many symptoms settle down. However, where symptoms persist, effective help is available. Facing the trauma is the first step. The second is recovering from its effects. Recovery is possible - whether the trauma occurred recently or in years gone by.


Acknowledgement flags

Austin Health acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to Elders past, present and emerging.
We celebrate, value and include people of all backgrounds, genders, sexualities, cultures, bodies and abilities.