After the Crisis: Trauma and Retraumatization Issue Brief
This paper addresses the nature and impact of trauma and the experience of retraumatization, and provides recommendations for “trauma-informed” and “retraumatization-informed” disaster preparedness and response. (Authors)
A distinction is often made between a traumatic event and psychological trauma, the latter of which refers to the impact on the individual of experiencing a traumatic event. Frequently, the word ‘trauma’ is used as a short-hand for both events and their impact because the actual experience of violence or disaster and the assault that the experience poses to one’s sense of self, safety, belonging, and connection are intertwined. Man-made and natural disasters can be traumatic for anyone but especially for individuals with histories of prior trauma, whether in the form of interpersonal abuse, accident, or disaster.
Living through traumatic events changes the ways the self and the world are experienced.
The impact of trauma is cumulative – the more times a traumatic event is experienced the greater the impact; additive – exposure to different types of trauma is correlated with greater impact; and summative – the combination of event(s) plus impact is what individuals carry forward through time, inscribed in memory, the sense of self, and behavior.
The impact of experiencing traumatic events includes responses such as isolation, hypervigilance, substance abuse, dissociation, self-injury, eating disorders, depression, anxiety, hearing voices, risky sexual behavior, and other psychological reactions that begin as coping mechanisms and end up as compounding problems. Too often, coping responses to experiencing trauma are pathologized and designated by mental health diagnoses--including Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, panic disorders, personality disorders, obsessive compulsive disorders, psychotic disorders, and eating disorders—without a full understanding of their interrelation with trauma. Immediate, intermediate, and long-term support, including peer support, for trauma survivors that fosters connection is essential to the healing process. (Authors)
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