What is Trauma Anyways

Updated: 4 days ago

People often hear the word trauma and think Post Traumatic Stress Disorder PTSD. According to many national institutes and survey agencies, traumatic events are experienced at least once in the lifetime of 50%-70% of people. Adverse events are not considered traumatic in themselves but the reaction to these events are considered traumatic. It's very common to feel confused, distressed, or numb following a traumatic event. Long term effects include hypervigilance, drastic mood changes, avoidance, anxiety, depression, addiction, and dissociation.

If most people experience traumatic events what makes us not all traumatized? Typically around 6% of people in the population are or can be diagnosed with PTSD. How can several people experience something horrific but only a few experience lingering effects months and sometimes years after the event?

Psychological trauma is a term used to describe the mental and emotional effects of an adverse event that linger and persist after the event has passed. There are many treatment options but some fail to have the depth or practicality to offer the holistic approach necessary for these issues.

Many people who have been affected by past life events still live fulfilling lives. They have children, jobs, relationships and purposeful hobbies but still struggle with linger effects of traumatic responses to adverse events. Depression, anxiety, addiction are the most common themes people experience but sometimes these problems are not the real problem. In some cases a person can have several mental health diagnoses or conditions that pile on each other and can become very unhelpful.

It does not have to be childhood trauma or stress from adolescence, it could be something that happened a few years ago or even a few months ago. The past is anything not here and now in this moment and if it lingers unacknowledged it can force its way into our daily life with or without our conscious choice. It only makes sense to go to the core of the issue and allow this process to alleviate the surface level symptoms and problems.

By no means does this negate biology because some people are born with vulnerabilities for schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, autism, ADHD or addictions. The biomedical model has been the dominant mental health treatment in the United States since the 1950s but has failed to improve or has shown deterioration in public mental health. Despite the allocation of billions of dollars to biomedical research and psychotropic medications, mental disorders are diagnosed much the same way they were in the 1950s and there has been no substantial evidence to be able to test someone for depression or bipolar through a blood sample or by brain imaging.

In conclusion, everyone isn’t traumatized but traumatic events, stress, adversity and emotional pain seem to be a part of the fabric of life. Some people can shake these events off instantly or in a few days or weeks but some it can take longer or even a lifetime. From this perspective, focusing on symptoms not as clusters of disorders or problems but signs of reactions to past experiences that need to be processed and changed seems to be a beneficial way to heal and thrive.


American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders. 5th ed. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.

Kessler, R. C., Sonnega, A., Bromet, E., Hughes, M., & Nelson, C. B. (1995).

Post Traumatic stress disorder the national comorbidity survey. (n.d). Archives of General Psychiatry, 52(12), 1048-1060. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1995.03950240066012.

Ross, C. A., & Halpern, N. (2009). Trauma model therapy: A treatment aproach for trauma, dissociation and complex comorbidity. Richardson, Tex: Manitou Communications Inc.

U.S Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) (2021). PTSD: National Center for PTSD.

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