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When most people think of trauma, they think about ‘Big T’ traumas including sexual assault, physical violence, accidents or war. However, there are ‘Little t’ traumas that occur in situations where you are exposed to unexpected circumstances that are different from the predictable life patterns you are used to, including losing your job, getting a divorce, being bullied, witnessing an accident or violence, or if you or someone you love is diagnosed with a serious illness, or if someone you love suddenly dies. 

What are the symptoms

Experiencing a reaction to trauma?

The following symptoms are commonly experienced after a traumatic event:


  • Intrusive thoughts and memories of the event when you don’t want them
  • Flashbacks
  • Nightmares
  • Poor memory
  • Confusion
  • Feeling as though you are in a dream or looking back at your body, or as though the environment is surreal.


  • Strong distressing emotions like fear, guilt, horror, shame, anger, sadness
  • Strong physical reactions (nausea, tight chest, sweating, trembling, heart racing)
  • Feeling wary and on edge (hypervigilant)
  • Being more easily startled than is usual for you
  • Being more irritable than usual and having difficulty concentrating
  • Disturbed sleep patterns, trouble getting to sleep and/or waking up
  • General aches and pains


  • Avoiding thinking about the event, or avoiding people, places or activities that remind you about the event
  • Feeling distant from others or numb
  • Loss of interest in your normal activities

You may have developed Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) if your symptoms have persisted for more than one month. About 10% of people will get PTSD.

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Chronic PTSD

If symptoms persist for more than one month …

You should seek help from a psychologist with training to treat PTSD if your trauma reaction is too distressing or if your symptoms have lasted for more than four weeks. Your psychologist will teach you the tools you need and to overcome the distressing memories and their negative impact on you and your life.