What is a Single Event Trauma?
Trauma is the result of a stressful situation that an individual is incapable of handling due to its overwhelming nature. This may be due to lack of internal or external resources. It is estimated almost 70% of Canadians experience a traumatic incident at least once in their lifetime. Let’s now explain the single event trauma.
Trauma results from unanticipated events that individuals are inept at dealing with. The effects and memories of the unfortunate event fade with time however when they do not, they develop into what is known as single trauma.
Single trauma is developed when the traumatic event is contained in a single experience. It is not recurring or does not repeat itself in the same context over the individual’s lifetime. It is a one-off event. It is also known as a single incident trauma and acute trauma. This type of trauma is linked with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Following are some of the characteristics of single event trauma:
- It stems from one, alienated event.
- Is not reinforced.
- The symptoms and cause are relatively easier to diagnose.
Causes of Single Event Trauma
Events that overwhelm a person for the safety of their physical or emotional well-being usually lead to single event trauma. In these events the person feels they are in some form of danger, facing a threat or a potential loss.
Examples of events that may cause this type of trauma are:
- An Accident.
- Natural Disasters.
- Experiencing Or Witnessing A Violent Crime.
The event usually stands out and apart in the person’s life. Thus it is often easier to identify such trauma as opposed to other kinds of trauma, i.e. complex trauma.
Karen Smith, a middle-aged mother of 3, experienced an event that left her traumatized. She went away on a vacation to Spain with her family and a few friends. They rented out a villa and stayed there collectively. The villa was a huge one with separate wings that had personal entrances to provide privacy.
Karen along with her husband chose a remote one so they could enjoy their vacation. However, halfway through, the lovely vacation turned in to a traumatic event for Karen when a couple of armed men entered the isolated wing. Karen’s husband was out in the common area with their children at that moment and Karen was bound, tied and gagged as the men robbed her at gunpoint.
This left Karen in a state of shock and trauma. She convinced her husband to cut the vacation short and return back to their house in the Ontario suburbs. The Spanish police eventually tracked down the armed robbers and were able to recover most of the Smiths’ possessions. However, Karen was extremely traumatized and refused to exit her house. She left her job in an office to start working from home.
One time her husband was unable to pick up their kids after school and they had to wait till sundown. This event made Karen aware of the gravity of her situation and seeks out professional help. She got better with the help of short-term therapy and the support of her family.
Symptoms of Single Event Trauma
The symptoms of single event trauma may appear instantly or after a period of time. However, the nature of the event being so extreme in an otherwise daily routine leads to an easy recognition.
Symptoms due to traumatic events can be intrusive in the nature that is the individual suffering from the trauma may have to relive it over and over. The re-experiencing of an event may be through nightmares, flashbacks or thoughts that appear seemingly out of nowhere and you are not able to control them; these thoughts are known as intrusive thoughts.
People who have experienced trauma often tend to grow averse to the thing or event that caused it. An example of this would be a person who suffered from a traumatic car accident might not be able to drive again.
Other symptoms include:
- Loss of sense of time
- Loss or sudden increase in sleep
- Poor hygiene
- Loss of interest in things previously enjoyed
- Unable to manage routine challenges
Suffering from a traumatic event often leads to a lack of desire to do the things that you had previously enjoyed. It also makes it difficult for a person to carry out or go back to their normal routine. Things that they were able to do seamlessly before becoming a challenge.
Reliving the Trauma
One of the most difficult symptoms of trauma to deal with is the constant re-experiencing of events. This is one of the main reasons why the other symptoms develop. The individual loses a sense of time unable to wrap their brain around what is reality and what is happening in the current timeline.
They enter a sort of time loop where they get stuck reliving their life’s most traumatic moment. This leads them to be debilitated and unable to focus or handle their normal routine. This is also the reason why it is so difficult to go back to the daily routine after having a traumatic experience.
An individual’s perception is also changed in how they view situations and events. They may become more suspicious and paranoid about situations as they are always anticipating a negative outcome.
This part of single event trauma is also associated with the post-traumatic disorder. PTSD is a mental disorder that develops as a result of severe trauma. PTSD may cause one to feel an inability to relate to the present situation they are in and disconnect not only from the environment but also one’s own self. People with PTSD are highly prone to developing substance abuse as a way to self-medicate or deal with the stress.
Who is affected by Single Event Trauma?
The obvious victim of a traumatic event is the person who suffers it. However, the truth is that its effect is not limited to only those that experience it. The symptoms and result of trauma are as such that those close to us also face its brunt.
One’s personal relationships and dynamics also suffer a great hit after a traumatic event. The other people affected by the traumatic incident include:
- One’s Spouse
- Business Partners
What is affected by Single Event Trauma?
It is important to consider not only the people affected by trauma but also how it can lead to the havoc of other important factors in your life. Trauma renders you unable to return to a life before the event. In some severe circumstance, you get stuck in a loop bound to relive the single event trauma unless you seek out some professional help.
Responsibilities such as school, work or business can take a great hit. This is due to a few factors such as:
- Loss of interest
- Inability to be social
- Loss of focus/ productivity
Treatment for Single Event Trauma
The fortunate thing is that single event trauma is treatable with a set of therapy designed specifically to help you deal with it. The cause of single event trauma is also relatively easily distinguishable as opposed to complex trauma. This is because there is one event that stands out, alone as a traumatic or a life-altering circumstance thus recognizing the root of it is easier.
The ability to identify it then provides the victim, their loved ones, and the professionals to clearly and specifically create techniques and methods for its remedy. Treatment for complex trauma is also more difficult as there are chances of it being diagnosed wrongfully are extremely high.
Another helpful factor in the treatment of single event trauma is that victims grow to mistrust or paranoid of situations and circumstances, not of people in general. This allows them to retain and maintain the relationships closest to them. However, in complex trauma people develop a severe mistrust of people in general and are no longer able to have stable relationships with anyone thus the recovery and readjustment are more difficult.
Single Event Trauma
There are various methods of helping treat a single event traumatic experience.
- Emotional Support form Family
- Short-Term Therapy
- Removing the Victim from Site of the Event
- Talk Therapy
- Family Therapy
- Couple Therapy
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
- Mindful Activities, such as Yoga and Meditation
The main thing to be aware of with victims of single event trauma is to present. If someone you know or a loved one has had a similar experience there is a high chance for them to be able to recover and overcome the trauma with your emotional support or availability.
It is important to monitor the person and recognize if they do not get better with traditional support. People with single event trauma are good at identifying their emotions and needs but if you are a caregiver or family member you need to be mindful of signs too.
Most single event trauma victims are receptive to traditional support systems however someone may reject it. This may be the time to seek out professional help as a bit of psychotherapy or medicinal therapy may be required. Some people turn to self-medication which leads to a destructive path of addiction so it is better to have sought regulated help.
Trauma is a highly subjective thing. It arises out of events that some people are not capable of dealing with. Everyone’s reaction to an unfortunate and upsetting situation is different. Thus it is important to realize that everyone’s method of dealing with and moving on from the unsavory situation will also be different.
Sometimes traditional means of therapy may not be enough thus we at Pillars of Wellness in Burlington, Aldershot (ON) we provide you with various psychotherapy methods to choose from the following one that you may think might be most helpful to someone with single-event trauma.
Single event trauma though less complicated than complex trauma is still a serious disorder and as such should be treated like one. It is important to understand and empathize with the victims. At Pillar of Wellness, we not only empathize with the suffers but also those supporting them to ensure that life can go back to the way it was before the event for all of those involved. To access or learn more about our services please visit our website Pillars of Wellness.