What is Trauma?
What is Trauma?

Understanding Trauma and PTSD

What is Trauma?

  • Intense and overwhelming experiences that involve serious loss, threat or harm to a person’s physical and/or emotional well being.
  • These experiences may occur at any time in a person’s life. They may involve a single traumatic event or may be repeated over many years.
  • According to a study completed by Kaiser Permanente, ⅔ of the of U.S. population has been exposed to at least one adverse/traumatic childhood experience (ACE) before the age of 18 years old.
  • ACE’s can include:
    • Abuse -psychological, physical, sexual, incest
    • Severe neglect or loss
    • Victim/witness of political terrorism, nuclear disasters, acts of crime, domestic violence, kidnapping, natural disaster, etc.
    • Living with someone who misuses substances
    • Living with someone who has a mental health problem
    • Having an incarcerated household member
    • Parental separation or divorce
    • Extreme stress that overwhelms a person’s capacity to cope

The Effects of Trauma & PTSD:

  • Trauma can disrupt a person’s thoughts, emotions, sensations, attachment and relationships.
  • A traumatic event, particularly one involving a threat of physical harm, can develop symptoms of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).
  • These symptoms can include:
    • Intense, distressing memories of the event
    • Excessive anxiety
    • Sleep issues
    • Anger and irritability
    • Depression
    • Social isolation
  • It’s estimated that 1 in 30 adults suffer with PTSD each year, especially veterans.
  • Trauma can affect the brain and the body. You can learn more about this and successful treatment options by reading The Body Keeps the Score by Dr. Bessel van der Kolk.

Helping People who’ve been traumatized:

  • Develop a deeper understanding of the effects of adversity and trauma.
  • Instead of asking “What’s wrong with you”, which implies you have something wrong with you, ask “what happened to you?” The latter takes away blame, shows compassion and an effort to understand them.
  • Encourage and support the person to seek treatment options.

June is PTSD awareness month. See more information.