So what exactly is trauma?

Trauma Blog April

We have been hearing this term floating around so much more in recent years. It can seem overwhelming with the amount of social media posts discussing trauma, as well as news outlets literally showing us traumatic events occurring around the world (war, pandemic). Some of us don’t even want to acknowledge we have experienced trauma because that in itself is a lot to take in. 

So, what exactly is trauma?

Trauma is the response we have to a distressing or disturbing event and this differs for everyone. Distressing events include what we think of when we hear “trauma”, like war, domestic violence, and childhood abuse; however, it can also include any other distressing experiences in a person’s life such as the death of a loved one, divorce, infidelity, bullying, occupational stress, medical procedures, poverty, and discrimination based on race, sexual orientation and gender. The important factor is how the person experiences the event, and this can vary from person to person.

Common reactions to trauma include:

  • Flashbacks or intrusive images
  • Nightmares
  • Withdrawing from others 
  • Avoiding anything that is a reminder of the traumatic event
  • Anger and irritability
  • Feelings of shame and guilt
  • Difficulties controlling emotions or even feeling emotions at all
  • Feeling “on edge” or “jumpy” 
  • Difficulty sleeping

For some folks these symptoms subside after weeks to months, and for others, they persist and can lead to a diagnosis of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

A common misconception that I notice in my work with clients,  is that you “either have PTSD, or you don’t have trauma at all”. 

The thing is, there is a lot of grey area. We are humans and we can’t all fit into these boxes and labels (as much as society would like us to). Most of us have some form of traumatic or deeply distressing experiences in our lifetime; if it gets to the point where it affects your daily life, your work, your relationships, or your self-worth, perhaps some work around this could be helpful. 

If you are interested in starting therapy but have some fears about addressing past experiences (which is completely normal, by the way), a 15 minute free consultation to discuss what therapy could look like for you may be a good start. 

Canadian Psychological Association (2020, December 2). Facts about traumatic stress and PTSD. https://cpa.ca/sections/traumaticstress/simplefacts/

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