Psychological trauma is a type of damage to the psyche that occurs as a result of a traumatic event. When that trauma leads to posttraumatic stress disorder, damage may involve physical changes inside the brain and to brain chemistry, which damage the person's ability to adequately cope with stress.
A traumatic event involves a single experience, or an enduring or repeating event or events, that completely overwhelm the individual's ability to cope or integrate the ideas and emotionsinvolved with that experience. The sense of being overwhelmed can be delayed by weeks, years, even decades, as the person struggles to cope with the immediate circumstances.
After a traumatic experience, a person may re-experience the trauma mentally and physically, hence avoiding trauma reminders, also called triggers, as this can be uncomfortable and even painful. Triggers and cues act as reminders of the trauma, and can cause anxiety and other associated emotions. Panic attacks are an example of a psychosomatic response to such emotional triggers.
Consequently, intense feelings of anger may surface frequently, sometimes in very inappropriate or unexpected situations, as danger may always seem to be present. Upsetting memories such as images, thoughts, or flashbacks may haunt the person, and nightmares may be frequent.
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