Acute Trauma | Michelle Dixon

The sudden change from okay to traumatised.

What characterises acute trauma is this sudden transition from okay to sudden emotional/physical stress. Your nervous system is in a state of overload. 

First let’s talk about what’s going on.

Your nervous system thinks it’s in danger. Right. Now.

Also known as PTSD, acute trauma is usually the result of a single-event trauma when the body is still in shock and in an extreme self-protective reaction.

This kind of trauma happens, for example, after a violent attack, a war event, a natural disaster, or the sudden death of someone close to you.

Delayed onset PTSD is the same, only it can occur later. Sometimes after a traumatic event, the body goes into a defensive reaction of ‘just getting on with life’ until a bit later, months later usually, when the individual is triggered and thus ‘releases’ the traumatic response at which point PTSD fully begins. 

Triggers for delayed onset PTSD vary considerably and depend very much on the individual’s psychology and physiology. I have seen clients triggered into delayed onset PTSD by quitting smoking or alcohol, by an emotional event in a relationship, by a change in health, to give but a few examples.

The approach for acute trauma (PTSD) is different to that for complex, ongoing, or developmental trauma.

Because acute trauma symptoms can actively prevent you from functioning on a day to day basis, recovery must begin with settling the nervous system.

Quite simply, in acute PTSD, you need to prioritise returning your body to a functional level, so that you can cope with life and relationships.

This means that recovery must begin with strategies to help your body and brain feel safe in the present moment. This can include:

  • meditation or mindfulness (only trauma-aware types)
  • playing (having fun)
  • self-care practices like massage, baths, alone-time
  • breathing practices
  • becoming the Witness

There is so much more to be said about acute trauma and what it looks like to settle the nervous system.

When I was in acute trauma, I didn’t know about breathing practices, being with rather than denying/repressing, the act of ‘witnessing’, or practicing safety in presence – none of the things I know now. I had to work it out moment by moment, both in my own self, and during my practitioner training.

That’s why I am committed to offering resources to help people help themselves – practical information and strategies they can implement now.

If you’d like to learn more about the different types of trauma, including acute trauma, ptsd, complex trauma, developmental trauma, as well as new insights into symptoms from panic attacks to memory problems – and ALSO learn holistic ways to begin to heal, you can get my free guide, just click the image below.

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