Definition of Trauma


Disclaimer: I am not a licensed therapist or mental health professional. I am a trauma survivor. If you need help, please seek the services of a licensed professional (see my Resources Page for suggestions). The contents of this website are for educational, informational, and entertainment purposes only. Information on this page might not be accurate or up-to-date. Accordingly, this page should not be used as a diagnosis of any medical illness, mental or physical. This page is also not a substitute for professional counseling, therapy, or any other type of medical advice.  Some topics discussed on this website could be upsetting. If you are triggered by this website’s content you should seek the services of a trained and licensed professional.

Trauma is an emotional and psychological response to an event or series of events that is deeply distressing or disturbing. It overwhelms an individual’s ability to cope, causes feelings of helplessness, diminishes their sense of self, and impacts their ability to feel a full range of emotions and experiences. Trauma can result from a one-time event, ongoing stress, or a combination of both.

Different Types of Trauma:

  1. Acute Trauma:
    • Definition: Results from a single, isolated incident.
    • Examples: Natural disasters, accidents, physical assault.
  2. Chronic Trauma:
    • Definition: Results from repeated and prolonged exposure to highly stressful events.
    • Examples: Domestic violence, childhood abuse, ongoing bullying.
  3. Complex Trauma:
    • Definition: Exposure to multiple traumatic events, often of an invasive, interpersonal nature.
    • Examples: Abuse and neglect during childhood, domestic violence over a long period.
  4. Developmental Trauma:
    • Definition: Occurs when a child is exposed to chronic and prolonged traumatic experiences.
    • Examples: Childhood neglect, abuse, or living in a household with substance abuse or mental illness.
  5. Secondary Trauma (Vicarious Trauma):
    • Definition: Indirect exposure to trauma through firsthand accounts or secondary exposure to traumatic events.
    • Examples: Therapists, counselors, or emergency responders who hear detailed stories of traumatic events.
  6. Historical Trauma:
    • Definition: Cumulative emotional and psychological wounding over the lifespan and across generations, emanating from massive group trauma experiences.
    • Examples: Genocide, slavery, colonization.
  7. Intergenerational Trauma:
    • Definition: Trauma that is transferred from the first generation of trauma survivors to the second and further generations.
    • Examples: Descendants of Holocaust survivors, Native American communities affected by colonization.
  8. Medical Trauma:
    • Definition: Physical and emotional responses to pain, injury, serious illness, medical procedures, and invasive or frightening treatment experiences.
    • Examples: Long-term illness, intensive care stays, surgeries.
  9. Relational Trauma:
    • Definition: Trauma that occurs within a close relationship, often involving betrayal or extreme emotional manipulation.
    • Examples: Infidelity, toxic relationships, parental abandonment.
  10. Environmental Trauma:
    • Definition: Trauma that results from being exposed to extreme or prolonged environmental stressors.
    • Examples: Living in a war zone, displacement due to natural disasters, living in areas with high crime rates.

Understanding the different types of trauma can help individuals and professionals provide more effective support and care for those affected by traumatic experiences.