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How to cope with trauma

How to cope with trauma

What is Trauma?

Trauma can occur as a physical injury and also as a psychological, emotional response to an event or an experience that is deeply distressing or disturbing such as an emotional response to a terrible event like an accident, rape or natural disaster. .

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Experts say people that experience a physical trauma may also experience psychological difficulty due to the shock of the unexpected injury.

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According to Dr Suleiman Ahmed , Medical Director of the Maitama District Hospital, Abuja,  physical trauma could occur where a hand is broken with  blood coming out for instance, and that physiological trauma could occur when people get divorced, have legal battles, work stress or suffer from  loss  of financial, career and educational prospects among others.

“A person experiencing psychological trauma, may be driving in a way that it resorts to an accident which then leads to physical trauma, such as fracture, head injuries, and spinal cord injuries, among others. So  the two goes together. But trauma by its simplest definition means injuries which can be seen or unseen which can psychological physical,” he said.

Dr Suleiman Ahmed who is also a chief consultant, orthopaedic and trauma surgeon with specialisation in spine Arthroplasty and Arthroscopy said road and air accidents were usual contributors to trauma previously but that now insurgency , farmer herder clashes , kidnapping and militancy were contributing to increasing trauma cases.

Arthroscopy is the procedure in which the examination and treatment of the damage of the interior part of a joint is done using an arthroscope, a type of camera that is inserted into the joint through a small incision and allows the surgeon a view of the joint area on a video monitor.

Arthroplasty, is the replacement of a damaged spinal disc with an artificial (manufactured) disc.

Also called joint replacement, it is an operative procedure in which the arthritic or damaged surfaces of bone are removed and replaced with something better, called a prosthesis.

Karen Onderko , Director of Research and Education of  Integrated listening said

response to a traumatic event varies significantly among people, but that there were some basic, common symptoms.

Onderko said some emotional signs include, sadness, anger, denial, fear and shame adding that they may lead to nightmares, insomnia, difficulty with relationships, emotional outbursts.

The expert said common physical symptoms of trauma are nausea, dizziness, altered sleep patterns, changes in appetite, headaches and gastrointestinal problems

She said the Psychological disorders may include: post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, dissociative disorders and substance abuse problems.

She said: “Not every traumatized person develops post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Some people develop some symptoms like those listed above, but they go away after a few weeks. This is called acute stress disorder (ASD).

“When the symptoms last more than a month  and seriously affect the person’s ability to function, the person may be suffering from PTSD. Some people with PTSD don’t show symptoms for months after the event itself. And some people deal with PTSD symptoms of a traumatic experience for the rest of their life. Symptoms of PTSD can escalate to panic attacks, depression, suicidal thoughts and feelings, drug abuse, feelings of being isolated and not being able to complete daily tasks.”

Onderko said there is no cure for trauma nor any quick fixes for the suffering associated with them but that there were a wide range of effective therapies.

Experts at This Way Up , a team of psychiatrists and clinical psychologists led by Professor Gavin Andrews suggested the following ways of  coping with symptoms of trauma

 

Immediately after the event

-Make sure you are with people. Do not go home to an empty house – ask a friend or relative to stay with you.

-Talk about the incident with others. Talking will help you get over the reactions.

-Remind yourself that the event is over and that you are now safe.

-If possible, get some physical exercise. This will help to burn off some of your tension and anxiety.

-Avoid alcohol, sedatives, or sleeping pills (they will only dull the experience and not allow you to deal with your feelings properly).

-Restrict stimulants (such as tea, coffee, chocolate, cola, or cigarettes) because you do not want to make your body even more agitated than it already is.

-Try to eat something, even if you do not feel like eating.

-If you cannot sleep, do not lie in bed, tossing and turning – get up and do something until you feel tired.

 

How to handle the next few days

-Remind yourself that your reactions are a normal result of trauma and will pass in time.

-Try to get back into your normal routine as soon as possible. You may need to gradually introduce yourself to tasks that seem difficult.

-If you feel uncomfortable, scared, or anxious, take some long, slow breaths and remind yourself that you are safe, and that the trauma is over.

-Make sure that you are doing things that are relaxing and enjoyable – be kind to yourself.

-Continue to talk to your family, friends, and colleagues about the trauma. This will help you to get over your feelings. Even if you feel a bit distant from other people, do not reject their support. Do not be afraid of your feelings. Continue to talk to your family, friends, and colleagues about the trauma. This will help you to get over your feelings. Even if you feel a bit distant from other people, do not reject their support. Do not be afraid of your feelings.

-Work on your general stress levels by ensuring that you have adequate sleep, a good diet and regular exercise. Practice relaxation to help reduce nervous tension.

-Drive more carefully, and be more careful around the home and with machinery. Accidents are more common after severe stress.

-Allow yourself time to deal with the memories. You will need commitment and patience. There may be some aspects of the experience that will be difficult to forget.

-If your reaction continues to seriously disrupt your life, please talk to your clinician.

Dr Ahmed said political will in addressing the causes of trauma such as addressing unemployment and drug abuse would go along way in reducing its burden in the country.

He said other ways of reducing the chances of trauma include utilisation of Information and Communication technology (ICT) to know whether situation when flying, state of your vehicle , knowing speed limits before driving or traveling, checking if your driver is under the influence of alcohol, among others.

He said there was need for discussion in religious places and communities on the need for peaceful coexistence to avoid violence.

The orthopaedic surgeon said well-equipped accident and emergency units in hospitals along with the requisite manpower was also  key to addressing the situation. He said those who rescue accident victims and rush them to the appropriate hospitals that can handle their cases and not just any health centre was also important.

“The doctor should have a good supporting team, that  knows what to give at the appropriate time, the oxygen in the theatre should be ready, so that when somebody’s breathing is not okay, they can be attended to,” he added.

Dr Ahmed said resourcefulness and public enlightenment on how to prevent trauma will also help the populace.

He said that the Maitama District Hospital has incorporated trauma services in its service delivery through a busy accident and emergency unit manned by an accident and emergency specialist, an orthopaedic nurse, backup theatre and ICU trained nurses.

“ We have investigative facilities like x-ray machines  , and other equipment to check for internal bleeding that can take the life of the patient; there are also people who are well trained to detect without doing x-ray , and the nature of injury too will tell the specialists when the patient is having serious problem to mention a few,” he said.

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