Crying, help and psychologist with a woman for therapy, depression notes and talking about trauma.

What are the consequences of trauma?

Just like physical injury, psychological trauma can result in symptoms that vary in severity, intensity, and duration.

Emotional symptomsPhysical symptomsCognitive symptomsBehavioural symptoms
Numbness and/or detachment

Fear and/or anxiety

Guilt and/or shame

Anger and/or irritability 

Sadness and/or hopelessness

Difficulty experiencing positive emotions
Fatigue and/or exhaustion

Nausea, digestive problems, or changes in appetite

Difficulty sleeping

Increased heart rate, startle response, or feeling “on edge” 

Increased muscle tension
Difficulty concentrating and/or making decisions

Intrusive thoughts and/or memories relating to the trauma

A change in the way you think about yourself, others, and the world

Difficulty trusting yourself and/or others 
Social withdrawal

Disengagement from typical responsibilities and activities

Increased use of unhelpful coping strategies (like avoidance, alcohol, or substance use)

Though these symptoms can be difficult to cope with, they are a normal response to traumatic events. When you experience a physical injury like a broken ankle, you might notice redness, swelling, and pain. These symptoms, while unpleasant, indicate that the body is healing and recovering. 

Healing from psychological trauma takes time and effort. When the nature of the traumatic event is particularly severe or long lasting, symptoms may take longer to heal. This could develop into post-traumatic stress injury (PTSI).

A note about terminology: We use the term PTSD to refer to post-traumatic stress disorder, which is a diagnosable mental illness, and post-traumatic stress injury to refer to the psychological wounding people may experience as a result of a traumatic event. Mental health advocates have suggested the use of the term post-traumatic stress injury (PTSI) to help focus attention on the experience of trauma. In this course, we will use the term PTSD when we are speaking about the diagnosis, and PTSI or post-traumatic stress when we are referring to psychological injury a person may experience as a result of trauma.