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Stress & Trauma

"Stress arising from trauma is affecting millions of Australians. A national conversation is required to consider how we can better manage this problem."

Trauma-related stress in Australia. Essays by leading Australian thinkers and researchers. Editors Bob Douglas and Jo Wodak - Australia 21 Institute 2017

70 percent of adults experience at least one traumatic event in their lifetime.

20 percent of people who experience a traumatic event will develop PTSD.

Anxiety, stress and depression are the leading cause of long-term absence in the workplace.

About $11.6 billion, or $451 per person, was spent on mental health-related services in Australia in 2020–21; almost $11 billion of this was government mental health expenditure, representing 7% of total government health expenditure.

Approximately 2.5 million Australian adults (13%) have experienced abuse during their childhood. This includes 1.6 million adults (8.5%) who experienced childhood physical abuse and 1.4 million adults (7.7%) who experiences sexual abuse.

So you are far from alone if you are experiencing stress, anxiety, depression or PTSD.

Clinical experience and research suggests that a high proportion of people with medically unexplained symptoms or somatoform disorders have histories of Adverse childhood experiences. (ACE’s) Symptoms can include exhaustion, confusion, sadness, anxiety, agitation, numbness, dissociation, and physiological arousal. You might experience a few or all of these symptoms.
Increased exhaustion and/or illness are often the result, as the more worried and stressed people are, the more tense and constricted muscles will become. Stress affects all systems of the body including the musculoskeletal, respiratory, cardiovascular, endocrine, gastrointestinal, nervous, and reproductive systems.

The 10 ACEs of trauma are forms of physical/emotional abuse, neglect and household
dysfunction. They generally include the following:

Physical abuse

Sexual abuse

Emotional abuse

Physical neglect

Emotional neglect

Mental Illness


Substance abuse

Violence against your mother

Having a relative who has been sent to jail or prison

If you have had several of these types of experiences happen in a layered or simultaneous manner, or if you are struggling with any of the above symptoms then you have likely experienced trauma. The ACEs create levels of toxic stress which shape your perspective on yourself and the safety of relationships, and they increase the risk of physical, emotional and social problems later in life.

When trauma occurs in the early, non-verbal development phase of life, that trauma literally imprints its patterning on the neuron, creating a template that provides a framework for future experiences. Adults who experience traumatic experiences already possess a supportive neural system. A healthy foundation built through infant years, childhood, and teen years creates a sturdy base to allow for restructuring and healing of trauma. But in developmental trauma, the table is very unstable and therefore everything on that table lacks support as that child grows.

Responses to developmental trauma in children are hyper-arousal or dissociative response, and the majority will use both. Terms like “oppositional”, “defiant”, “distant”, “acting out” and “resistant” are used to describe the fearful adult or child. The sad reality is that these behaviours anger and frustrate others, and this brings about greater separation for the child seeking safety and connection, producing the opposite effect of what they want and need.

Whether it be adult or childhood trauma, there are therapeutic approaches that can uncover the faulty neural patterning and replace it with healthy ones.

Many spiritual teachers say that spiritual growth occurs when facing our trauma head on, with insight and compassion (and with skilled help where required). Often it is the recognition that you carry trauma, that starts you on the pathway to becoming more conscious, more integrated, more fulfilled, more loving, more whole. In this way we can see that pain as a necessary impetus for seeking escape from a mediocre or miserable life to one that is authentic, joyful and fulfilling.

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