What is Trauma?

What is Trauma

In general, trauma can be defined as a psychological, emotional response to an event or an experience that is deeply distressing or disturbing. When loosely applied, this trauma definition can refer to something upsetting, such as being involved in an accident, having an illness or injury, losing a loved one, or going through a divorce. However, it can also encompass the far extreme and include experiences that are severely damaging, such as rape or torture.

Because events are viewed subjectively, this broad trauma definition is more of a guideline. Everyone processes a traumatic event differently because we all face them through the lens of prior experiences in our lives. For example: one person might be upset and fearful after going through a hurricane, but someone else might have lost family and barely escaped from a flooded home during Hurricane Katrina. In this case, a minor Category One hurricane may bring up traumatic flashbacks of their terrifying experience.

Because trauma reactions fall across a wide spectrum, psychologists have developed categories as a way to differentiate between types of trauma. Among them are complex trauma, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and developmental trauma disorder.

Complex Trauma

Complex trauma happens repetitively. It often results in direct harm to the individual. The effects of complex trauma are cumulative. The traumatic experience frequently transpires within a particular time frame or within a specific relationship, and often in a specific setting.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can develop after a person has been exposed to a terrifying event or has been through an ordeal in which intense physical harm occurred or was threatened. Sufferers of this PTSD have persistent and frightening thoughts and memories of their ordeal.

Developmental Trauma Disorder

Developmental trauma disorder is a recent term in the study of psychology. This disorder forms during a child’s first three years of life. The result of abuse, neglect, and/or abandonment, developmental trauma interferes with the infant or child’s neurological, cognitive, and psychological development. It disrupts the victim’s ability to attach to an adult caregiver.

An adult who inflicts developmental trauma usually doesn’t do it intentionally – rather, it happens because they are not aware of the social and emotional needs of children.

Trauma Symptoms

Often, shock and denial are typical reactions to a traumatic event. Over time, these emotional responses may fade, but a survivor may also experience reactions long-term. These can include:

  • Anger
  • Persistent feelings of sadness and despair
  • Flashbacks
  • Unpredictable emotions
  • Physical symptoms, such as nausea and headaches
  • Intense feelings of guilt, as if they are somehow responsible for the event
  • An altered sense of shame
  • Feelings of isolation and hopelessness

Trauma Therapy

Trauma therapy is not one-size-fits-all. It must be adapted to address different symptoms. Mental health professionals who are specially trained in treating trauma can assess the survivor’s unique needs and plan treatment specifically for them.

Currently, there are several trauma therapy modalities in place:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) teaches the person become more aware of their thoughts and beliefs about their trauma and gives them skills to help them react to emotional triggers in a healthier way.
  • Exposure therapy (also called In Vivo Exposure Therapy) is a form of cognitive behavior therapy that is used to reduce the fear associated with the emotional triggers caused by the trauma.
  • Talk therapy (psychodynamic psychotherapy) is a method of verbal communication that is used to help a person find relief from emotional pain and strengthen the adaptive ways of problem management that the individual already possesses.

These modalities treat the memory portion (the unconscious) of the trauma, however we now know that a survivor’s conscious brain must be treated, as well. Recent studies have found that body-oriented approaches such as mindfulness, yoga, and EMDR are powerful tools for helping the mind and body reconnect.

Additionally, neurofeedback (a type of biofeedback that focuses on brain waves) shows promise in helping patients with trauma symptoms learn to change their brain wave activity to help them become calmer and better able to engage with others.

Healing from Trauma

It is possible to heal from emotional and psychological trauma. We know that the brain changes in response to a traumatic experience, however, by working with a mental health professional who specializes in trauma, you can leave your trauma behind and learn to feel safe again.

Compassionate Trauma Therapy

The clinicians at The Center for Anxiety and Mood Disorder’s Trauma Institute provide compassionate care through specialized training in trauma therapy. For more information, contact us or call us today at 561-496-1094.

15 Comments
  1. Reply
    James Johnson

    Thank you for this informative article

  2. Reply
    Peter Holt

    Trauma through a family friend telling me it is a secret dont tell anyone and then proceeded to molest me for 16 years. He gave gifts to me AND always telling me it is our secret. This in turn caused my PTSD with constant flashbacks and feeling it was my fault .

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  4. Reply
    Carmel Clark

    Why is EMDR Trauma Therapy NOT mentioned considering it is one of the most quantified therapies in existence today for trauma and ptsd?

    • Reply
      George

      I think EMDR can be used.
      George

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  6. Reply
    Sam Li

    I love what you shared about compassionate trauma therapy. Therapy is a great option when it comes to coping with emotional trauma. If I were to need such assistance, I would contact a reliable counseling service.

    • Reply
      Dusk

      I don’t know if I have trauma but one of my friends said that I might and the only thing I can think of even being close to traumatic was back in 6th grade.

      I had asked my friends to let this one girl in the group and then she had ruined everything, every little balance and quite a bit of my sanity she even made my best friend go in to depression and later on me. But for some reason I stuck with her till 9th grade, and I did nothing, I had so many chances, but I did nothing. That girl had torn the whole group a part, and I stuck with her. The only thing that made me get away from her was that she had gone way to far and insulted my best friend. I managed to finally get away from her but I’m not able to forgive myself for letting her in in the first place, especially cause I had a bad feeling about her for the beginning but I still let her in and did nothing as she f****d up everything. I let her do what she wanted because I wanted to trust her but I knew I couldn’t yet I still stuck with her

      TL;DR: I let a girl in to the group of friends I had and she messed everything up and I still blame myself

      Now, I probably already know the answer to this question but, would this qualify ask trauma?
      I’m gonna guess not

  7. Reply
    Xolile Thabede

    l think i have Developmental trauma disorder cz every time when i’m in the car I feel the movement of the car…expetial if the car moving in the gravel road, so I feel dat movement up until I become sick…I start to have nausea, vomiting, dizziness and shaking

    When I was 3 months years old, I started to sick up until now I’m 23 years old BT there is no help I get, I think I have fits BT I don’t understand coz I don’t fall down…it changes the way it starts every time and dat fits destroyed my life cz I don’t know how do I treat it, I’ve went to several doctors BT can’t find help….Thank you

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  9. Reply
    Dickson R Costantine

    How anaesthesia help to treat traumatized patients?

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  13. Reply
    Alex Alison

    BUT I CAN’T SEE A THERAPIST AND I CAN’T EFFORT TO BUY TO SEE ONE IN ONLINE !! WHAT AM I SUPPOSE TO DO ?! :'(

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