What is trauma?

Trauma can either refer to a distressing or disturbing psychological experience or a physical injury that may result in broken bones, wounds or organ damage. Moreover, there are three main types of trauma, namely, acute trauma, chronic trauma and complex trauma. Regardless of the type of trauma, the experience of trauma can destroy an individual’s sense of security and leave an individual feeling helpless in a frightening environment. Psychological trauma can leave an individual with lingering negative memories, emotions and anxieties. It can also lead to feeling numb, distant and untrustworthy of others. Traumatic events can frequently involve a threat to one's life or safety, but any scenario that leaves an individual feeling overwhelmed and alone can be traumatic. The subjective emotional experience of the event, not the objective conditions, determines whether or not an incident is traumatic.

Types of trauma

Trauma comes in a variety of forms which can include:

  • Acute trauma
  • Chronic trauma
  • Complex trauma
  • Unexpected death of a close friend or loved one
  • Early childhood trauma
  • Secondary or vicarious trauma
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Bullying
  • Witnessing crime and violence
  • Motor Vehicle Accident
  • Community violence
  • Severe injury-Self or someone else
  • Stalking
  • Natural disasters
  • Domestic Violence
  • Medical trauma
  • Physical abuse
  • Refugee trauma
  • Sexual harassment
  • Sexual abuse
  • Sex trafficking
  • Terrorism
  • Violence
  • Traumatic grief


Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

A diagnosis of Acute Stress Disorder (ASD) may precede the diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) since ASD is characterised by symptoms such as flashbacks, hyper-vigilance, avoidance, etc., that lasts for up to a month after exposure to a traumatic experience. PTSD is a disorder that is marked by flashbacks, hyper-vigilance, avoidance and other symptoms that last for more than 1 month and that occur as a result of exposure to extreme trauma.

Severe anxiety, flashbacks, intrusive symptoms, negative alterations in mood or cognition, high arousal or changes in reactivity, avoidance habits, and lingering memories of the event are all symptoms.

How is trauma treated?

While there are many types of trauma-focused treatment, the goal is to integrate the traumatic experience into an individual’s functioning in a healthier manner rather than remove it completely. Several treatments can help an individual cope with trauma and its symptoms, including psychotherapy and medication. Medication as a stand-alone treatment cannot cure trauma but can help manage the accompanying symptoms such as anxiety, depression and insomnia.

Therapies could include the following:

  • Behaviour therapy
  • Cognitive behavioural therapy
  • Eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR)
  • Brain Working and Recursive Therapy (BWRT)
  • Reset Therapy
  • Dialectical Behavioural Therapy. (DBT)
  • Hypnotherapy
  • Pharmacotherapy
  • Psychodynamic therapy
  • Group therapy
1Can trauma be caused by genetics?
A rising body of research and evidence implies that trauma (such as that caused by intense stress or malnutrition, among other things) can be passed down through generations. The field of study, namely, Epigenetics, has proven that Trauma can leave a chemical imprint on an individual's genes that can be passed down to subsequent generations. The term trans-generational trauma captures this concept.