Acute Trauma


Acute trauma refers to the difficulties experienced in the time immediately following an overwhelming event. After a traumatic event such as an accident, an act of violence, a natural disaster, the sudden or accidental passing of a loved one, or a physical or sexual assault, it is natural to struggle with a range of different emotional and physiological concerns. These may include:

  • Sleep disturbances
  • Exaggerated startle response
  • Fear
  • Vivid memories, flashbacks or nightmares
  •  Inability to concentrate
  • Feelings of hopelessness

These experiences can feel overwhelming and difficult to manage, and if left unaddressed may develop into other mental health issues that can be more chronic, such as post traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, or substance use. Counselling can be an important part of recovering from the effects of an unmanageable experience by providing a safe space where thoughts, feelings, and sensations can be processed and integrated. 


American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.

van der Kolk, B. A. (2014). The body keeps the score: brain, mind, and body in the healing of  trauma. New York: Viking.

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