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The Trauma Experience: Trauma in Adulthood

Updated: Jan 20, 2023

Psychologist DR. ESSLIN TERRIGHENA explores traumatic events that occur in adulthood and how they can impact us.

Despite having built greater coping resources in adulthood, we can still experience distressing events that overwhelm our coping and leave us traumatized. This can be a single overwhelming incident, or an accumulation of multiple aversive events. We may experience strong feelings, distressing, hopeless, or intrusive thoughts, a sense of lack of safety, repeated activation of our sympathetic nervous system (e.g. heart racing, sweating, rapid breathing), or even flashbacks.

Recognizing our symptoms early and seeking help in trauma therapy can resolve these issues early on, allow us to make sense of the traumatic experience, and integrated the event into our existing cognitive structures. This will speed up the healing process and help us to overcome the trauma.

Just like physical injuries, our body’s trajectory is to heal injuries to our internal world over time. However, traumatic experiences and trauma frequently get stuck as they have not been integrated properly into our higher cortical structures. As trauma occurs at all four levels (thoughts, feelings, physiology, behaviours), we are unable to “just think our way out of trauma”. Instead, trauma needs to be resolved at all four levels.

It is noteworthy here, that it is not unusual for later adulthood trauma to mirror experiences of early childhood trauma, especially when this is of relational (interpersonal) nature. For example, individuals who experience emotional neglect in childhood, may later find themselves in relationships with avoidant or emotional neglectful partners. This can trigger early childhood trauma repeatedly, bringing with it the flood of feelings, thoughts, and physical reactions, and ultimately often the behaviours used in childhood to deal with the distress. However, beyond this, it can also provide further traumatic experiences in adulthood.

Trauma therapy can help to process adulthood trauma, both when it is a new traumatic experience and when it replays old childhood patterns, and guides us in getting our needs met to achieve long-lasting recovery, wellbeing and happiness.

To find out more about how trauma therapy can help you recover from past trauma, book a consultation with psychologist Dr. Esslin Terrighena, please contact (852) 2521 4668 or

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