Understanding Trauma

Everybody experiences trauma at some point in their lives. Some are more impactful than others and some people recover differently than others.

Trauma: A word that has become less taboo to speak. In this month’s post, we identify what trauma is, the different types of trauma and how they happen, and the ways in which it can present in one’s life. 

Sometimes trauma is a major disaster or event. For example, the terrorist attacks on September 11th, 2001, Hurricane Katrina, the wildfires in California, mass shootings, infectious diseases outbreaks, the Ukrainian war. Other examples of trauma include physical abuse, sexual abuse, family/intimate partner violence, sudden loss of a loved one, and unexpected medical concerns. According to the American Psychological Association, trauma is defined as “an emotional response to a terrible event”(APA, n.d.). Other definitions of trauma describe the physical, emotional, and/or life threatening harm that results from an event or circumstances (SAMHSA, n.d.). The suddenness and unpredictability of traumatic events make these experiences different from ordinary hardships (Psychology Today, n.d.). Additionally, you do not need to be a victim of terrible events to experience trauma, simply being a witness to a terrible event can cause trauma.

Although it is typical to have reactions following a terrible event that resemble trauma responses, their presence alone does not mean there is a trauma disorder or diagnosis. Unless the reactions are negatively impacting the individual’s life causing significant impairment, are present for greater than a month, and meet the specific criteria for a PTSD diagnosis as indicated in the DSM-5. These signs and symptoms include, but are not limited to:

  • Recurrent, involuntary, and intrusive distressing memories of the event
  • Recurrent distressing dreams that about the event
  • Dissociative reactions such as flashbacks
  • Avoidance of stimuli related to the event
  • Persistent negative emotional state
  • Diminished interest in significant activities
  • Persistent inability to experience positive emotions
  • Irritability and angry outburst
  • Reckless and self-destructive behavior
  • Hypervigilance
  • Exaggerated startle response
  • Sleep Disturbances

It is important to note that dissociative symptoms of derealization and depersonalization can also be included. These signs and symptoms can appear in acute and chronic trauma. The former is evident immediately after the traumatic event and is of a shorter duration whereas chronic trauma results from persistent and prolonged exposure to traumatic events.

There are many options available for treating trauma. From lifestyle changes to psychotherapy, that includes trauma-informed care, and psychopharmacological interventions like Ketamine treatment are a few of the methods used to treat trauma (Psychology Today, n.d.). If you would like more information on Ketamine treatments, please visit our partner clinic, Healing Ketamine. If psychotherapy and lifestyle changes interest you, please reach out today to visit with one of our many trauma-informed therapists. Healing from trauma is possible!

Trauma. (n.d.). In American Psychological Association. Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/topics/trauma#:~:text=Trauma%20is%20an%20emotional%20response,symptoms%20like%20headaches%20or%20nausea.

Trauma. (n.d.). In Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/trauma

Trauma and violence. (n.d.). In SAMHSA. Retrieved from https://www.samhsa.gov/trauma-violence.