There’s a greater public awareness of trauma these days, and terms like PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) are widely used. What’s perhaps less well understood is how many possible causes of trauma there are. We tend to associate PTSD with “extreme” or life-threatening events. But it could arise from any frightening event, or ongoing stresses.

This blog is about common signs of trauma, and some of the steps you can take in addressing it. We’re a private mental health care provider, and over the years our team have helped many people through PTSD and similar challenges. It’s not easy, but there are ways to cope.

Remember that this is just information, not advice. We know this sounds like legalese, but it’s important to be upfront about the distinction. Everyone experiences and recovers from trauma in different ways, so it would be misleading to talk about a one-size-fits-all “cure”.

Trauma is a big topic, and it can be confusing to navigate all the information and misconceptions about it. If you think someone you love has experienced trauma (or you think you have yourself), we hope this helps bring some clarity about what to think about next.

What is trauma?

When we talk about trauma, we generally mean a reaction to events or situations that make you feel exceptional emotional stress. It may cause feelings of fear, sadness or helplessness, and in many cases these feelings can last a long time or recur.

Trauma is personal and different for everyone. Just as every person is unique, so is every trauma. It could come from a single upsetting event, or an ongoing distressing situation like childhood bullying or an abusive relationship. There are common overlooked causes as well, like bereavement, serious illness, or anything that makes you feel unsafe, vulnerable or humiliated.

There’s no limit to the number of possible causes, and it’s incredibly important not to see any one cause as more “valid” than another. Traumatic stress is normal, regardless of what triggers it. Recognising this is an essential first step to recovery.

What are the symptoms of trauma?

Symptoms of trauma can come and go. They may appear immediately after traumatic events, years later or any time in between. They may be triggered by things that remind us of trauma or force us to relive it, but sometimes they seem to come from nowhere.

There’s a mix of both psychological and physical symptoms, which we’ll list separately.

Psychological signs

  • Shock or denial
  • Anxiety
  • Guilt and shame
  • Sadness or a sense of hopelessness
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Difficulty trusting other people

Physical signs

  • Trouble sleeping or bad dreams
  • Exhaustion
  • Rapid heartbeat and palpitations
  • Muscle tension
  • Jumpiness

This isn’t exhaustive, and it’s best not to view it as a checklist. Not everyone with traumatic stress will experience all of these symptoms, and not everyone with these symptoms has traumatic stress. Still, these are some of the most common signs. They can come and go, but even if they’re short-lived they can be extremely distressing.

How do I know if a loved one has traumatic stress?

You can’t be certain about this without a professional diagnosis. It’s very important to be clear about that. But if you’re concerned about a loved one, there may be clues in their behaviour.

Their mood may change very rapidly. They may seem to seize up or shy away from a certain topic. Sometimes, people will fall into destructive coping mechanisms like self-harm or drug and alcohol abuse.

Again, there’s no checklist, and the signs can be very subtle. But if you’re even slightly concerned about someone, you should probably trust your instincts, just to be on the safe side.

What to do next

If there’s any emergency or threat to life, you should call 999. There are also amazing charities like Samaritans, who you can call if you’re acutely distressed or feel unable to cope. They’re available any time on 116 123.

In the longer term, it’s important to address trauma – even if it doesn’t “feel” urgent right now. Symptoms can recur, so it’s better to be prepared. There are many pathways to recovery these days. The NHS offers plenty of mental health services, and in the private sector there’s everything from counselling to group therapy.

How can Socium help?

We offer private mental health care of all kinds. We understand that it’s hard to navigate all the care options out there and figure out which is best. That’s why the first step we take is an assessment. This is a 90-minute discussion with a Registered Mental Health Nurse (RMN), who will listen to you and evaluate what you’re going through.

They’ll use their expertise to figure out what treatment is most suitable, and take it from there. Importantly, these assessments are very quick to arrange. We’ll see you or your loved one as soon as you need.

We also offer a case management service. Essentially, this gives you a single case manager to coordinate all the care you’re receiving. This is especially helpful for people who’ve already taken the first steps to recovery and are in contact with more than one service.

Your case manager will book the appointments, follow up the referrals and make sure you and your loved ones are updated every step of the way. They’ll use their experience to make recommendations about what other steps you can take. Most importantly, they’ll listen to you and your suggestions. Expertise doesn’t go one way – you’re the expert on you, and every part of the plan will be based on your feedback and preferences.

Is private care the right way to go?

At Socium, we offer private mental health care, but we can’t pretend there’s a single care option that’s perfect for everyone. There are many great mental health services in the NHS, and many of our team are proud to have worked for the NHS.

However, what we can say is that NHS waiting times can be long. There are significant backlogs as a result of COVID, and mental health services in particular are busier than ever. This can result in delays of weeks or even months.

The biggest benefit of private mental health care is that there’s no waiting. We offer rapid-access assessments, and if you want to continue with us we get straight to it. We understand the financial concerns associated with private care, and that’s why we make a point of making our care as affordable as possible. We’re in the business of helping people – not pricing them out of the support they need.

If you want to book an assessment or find out more about our case management service, you can do this via our contact page. If you’d prefer to call, you can reach us on 0203 384 0007.