What is Trauma?

Psychological trauma is the result of an extremely distressing event for which the person is unprepared and unable to cope. Trauma may be the result of a one time event or it may be the result of an enduring or repeated event. The meaning a person makes, or their subjective experience, determines whether the experience is traumatic. People can experience the same event differently and therefore one may be traumatized while the other is not.

Types of events which may result in a traumatic experience:

  • Assault (physical/sexual)
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Sudden loss
  • Natural disasters
  • War
  • Witnessing of a death or trauma
  • Chronic illness

Again, just as people make different meanings of the same event, their reactions to trauma can also be very diverse. They may have few or many symptoms, and each symptom will vary in intensity.

Common psychological reactions to trauma:

  • Fear and anxiety
  • Inability to trust
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Re-experiencing the trauma
  • Hyper-arousal
  • Irritable
  • Jittery
  • Easily startled
  • Numbness
  • Anger
  • Guilt and shame
  • Depression

Although there are many patterns and commonalities within a person’s response to a traumatic event, each survivor is unique and thus their recovery can be unique as well.