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Psychological Trauma


As a rule, victims of crime are burdened with a whole range of consequences. Some of these consequences are easy to see and are directly evident to others; these include financial losses as well as physical injury. But what often remains concealed and not evident to others are the mental consequences for victims.

People who have been the victim of crime and suffer mental trauma often describe how they feel with the following words:


                                                “Nothing is the same anymore!”


This means that victims’ perceptions are fundamentally altered and, for example, previously-valued activities, individuals or things can have lost their meaning for the victims. Sometimes, victims also appear changed to others, with their visible behaviour no longer comparing to what was once familiar.

The cause of the consequences described here can be a mental trauma. The word “trauma” originates from the Greek, and its meaning is similar to “injury”. When describing the mental consequences experienced, we initially speak of after-effects of trauma, or in certain symptomatic forms, also of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

In ICD 11 the triggers for a trauma are defined as an event or series of events of an extremely threatening or horrific nature (WHO, 2019).  In DSM 5, traumata are describes as "confrontation with actual or impending death, serious injury or sexual violence" (APA, 2013).

These definitions show the extreme palpable threat for the victims of the experienced situation. This allows the victims' feelings of absolute helplessness and of being at the mercy of the events to be clearly deduced and comprehended. In the technical literature, this is described, among other things, as “post-traumatic jarring of the perception of self and mankind” (Gysi, 2021).  

In the case of crimes, an individual becomes the victim of another individual. For this reason, one understandable reaction of the victims can the development of major mistrust of others. In extreme cases this can lead to complete withdrawal from society, which can result in further mental and psycho-social consequences.

Frequently victims experience a feeling of ongoing helplessness. Ultimately, this can massively restrict their capacity to master their own life. For many victims, a normal lifestyle, the practice of a profession or a hobby is no longer possible.

Victims of crime frequently suffer consequences in which body and mind interactively impact on one another. In cases of this kind we speak of psychosomatic consequences, i.e. major physical reactions to mental stress. Certain stimuli such as a sound which reminds the victim of the event, not only triggers memories. It also leads to physical stress reactions, for example heart palpitations or an increase in blood pressure. This, in turn, can lead to fears relating to the perceived physical changes. Veritable vicious circles can ensue from which victims find it difficult or indeed impossible to escape without help.

If you have been the victim of a crime and perceive changes in yourself, take them seriously. Mental illness as a result of extraordinary stress can become chronic which, in turn, can lead to the development of further mental (and physical) illness. This development is generally subtle and develops over a longer period.

3 Stages:
  • The traumatic event initially leads to a shock reaction. This finds expression in nervous tension, confusion or sadness, the incapacity to remember important dates, feelings of rage or numbness. This condition can last from between an hour and a number of days.
  • This is followed by the phase of the trauma sinking in, which can last for between two to four weeks. In this phase, acute stress reactions subside but internally the victims are still completely occupied by the event. Strong feelings of self-doubt arise, frequently also hopelessness, depression, feelings of impotence and a future over which a shadow has been cast. Some have feelings of guilt for what they regard as their own failings or may experience fits of rage and vehement accusations against possible perpetrator/s.
  • In the subsequent recovery phase, some victims begin to recover from the trauma. The traumatic event remains of central significance. It can take a long time for it to be processed, i.e. incorporated into one’s own view of the world and understanding of self
The traumatised person is not crazy but rather is reacting normally to a crazy incident.