What is Trauma?

Image by Jong Marshes

Definition of Trauma

A traumatic event is an experience, or repeated experiences, that is overwhelming and beyond a person's control. It may be life-threatening, a threat to safety or cause feelings of extreme fear and helplessness. Trauma can create significant distress, making it immensely difficult to cope emotionally, mentally, physically and behaviourally.

Traumatic events include, but are not limited to, sexual assault, physical assault, witnessing intimate partner violence, unexpected death of a loved one, experiences of war and being caught in a natural disaster or pandemic. Despite the source of trauma, the main components are that it was unexpected, the person was unprepared and the person was unable to stop it from happening. 

Trauma Symptoms

People respond to experiences of trauma in many different ways. Trauma symptoms can manifest as addictive behaviours like substance misuse, unhealthy relationship patterns, intrusive memories or flashbacks, negative core beliefs rooted in self-blame and shame, unexplained physical illness and many others.

Image by Elmer Cañas
 

©2020 by Alicia Lue Philippe, MSW, RSW.

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