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Experts Explain the Impact Trauma Can Have on Mental Health

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Katie Price is set to finally air her new documentary on Channel 4, Trauma and Me, which explores the star’s mental health struggles, including her battle with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following a number of terrifying events over the past five years.

Trauma can affect anyone and be caused by any event in a person’s life that causes emotional distress and exceeds their abilities to cope or function emotionally. 

Major life events that somebody experiences that can lead to trauma include witnessing violence, being in life-threatening situations or sexual violence. This type of trauma is often referred to as acute trauma, meaning it comes from a singular traumatic event and is most commonly associated with PTSD

As part of the documentary explores Price’s PTSD diagnosis, she explained: “I hit severe depression a couple of years ago, depression on top of PTSD, I was suicidal, didn’t want to be here.”

Below, Martin Preston, founder and chief executive at Private Rehab Clinic Delamere, explains why those who experience trauma may lead to dissociation as a way to cope with symptoms of PTSD and why it’s important that those who experience trauma seek mental health intervention. 

Why can experiencing traumatic events lead to dissociation?

When a person experiences a traumatic event, their brain can go into what is known as ‘dissociation’ or protective mode, in which it tries to detach itself from what is happening in the current moment. 

People may experience dissociation after a traumatic event because it functions as a coping mechanism created by the body to deal with overwhelming emotion or distress, allowing them to separate themselves from their usual mode of consciousness.  

This can manifest itself in three main ways: not remembering what happens during specific periods, having blackouts or a sense of feeling foggy or confused.

Why might dissociation after trauma indicate mental health issues later on?

Dissociation can be a break in how your brain processes and handles information, which can cause you to feel disconnected from your thoughts or body and can progress into a dissociative mental health disorder. 

While some people can experience dissociation for short periods, others can experience it for months or weeks to deal with stress and could indicate disorders, including depersonalisation disorder or dissociative amnesia. 

Not only that, but dissociation can often be an indicator of many mental health issues, including borderline personality disorder and PTSD.

PTSD is often fear-based, so individuals may use dissociation to cope with trauma-related triggers.

Why is preventive mental health care critical?

If left untreated, dissociation and trauma can lead to further health complications and destructive behaviours, including abuse of substances such as alcohol or drugs, to cope with the emotions and stress a person may be feeling. Though the effects of the importance may initially numb the pain, a dangerous cycle of addiction can begin. 

It is, therefore, essential that when a person experiences trauma, preventive mental health care measures are taken to look after that person, including therapy and medication that will address the trauma they experienced so that they don’t look for alternative coping strategies.

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