What is Trauma?

Trauma is something that many, many people (if not all) experience at some point in life, and with all going on in the world at the moment, it is something many people can relate to.

Trauma is defined as ‘a deeply distressing or disturbing experience’ by Oxford English Dictionary.

When people think about trauma, therefore, they think about an accident, a terrible injury, rape, assault, the loss of a close loved one, witnessing something like a suicide or a murder, a near miss, a terrorist attack, any situation where someone perceives a threat to their life, or something that appears big and acute.

Yes, all of those things are traumas and they affect people, and they also affect people in different ways. Some people are able to move forwards and away from actue trauma, and other people are unable to function, or live with the effects of the trauma, which can result in someone completing suicide. Mostly, people experience something in between those two extremes; maybe experiencing flashbacks, anxieties or fears, depression, difficulties with relationships, difficulties in functioning, addictions and/or something else entirely.

As well as acute traumatic events, it is also possible for someone to experience a more ongoing and chronic kind of trauma. This kind of trauma is often invalidated or overlooked, but this trauma experience is just as valid and traumatic as an acute trauma.

Chronic trauma (often called complex trauma) occurs over a sustained period of time and is generally where there is an ongoing situation where someone’s needs are not being met. This kind of trauma can be seen with victims of bullying, or in abusive relationships (of any type, between partners, or parent to child, for example), or in children whose parent/s were not able to look after them and meet their needs in the way the child needed or in other situations where someone’s needs are neglected over a sustained period of time.

A sustained period of needs not being met is deeply distressing in a different way from witnessing or experiencing something that is more visibly traumatic.

Chronic trauma is often missed as being traumatic, including by the person who has experienced it, as well as potentially others around them (including some professionals) , but can have consequences far and wide. It might be difficult for someone to form healthy relationships (or any relationships), or someone may have low self esteem, self worth or self confidence, someone may have anxieties, or depression, someone may develop addictions and/or something else.

Both types of trauma are devastating by nature, with implications far and wide, and that’s a perfectly understandable response to something that is very distressing and disturbing. To quote the well known phrase (although I am unsure who said it first), the implications and affects of trauma on someone is ‘a sane reaction to insane circumstances’, and that is something I will be looking at in other blog entries, as well as how someone can overcome trauma.

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