Trauma: Types, Causes, Symptoms and Treatment


Trauma psychologically is the reaction of a person to an event that is very stressful to them. These include war zones, natural disasters and accidents. There are many physical and emotional symptoms associated with trauma.

Trauma does not develop in everyone who undergoes a traumatic event. There are also different types of trauma. Some individuals may experience short-term side effects, while others will experience long-term ones.

The key to treating trauma is to identify and address the underlying cause so that people can constructively manage their symptoms.

This article discusses the various types of trauma as well as the symptoms of trauma and treatment options.

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What is trauma?

The American Psychological Association (APA) defines trauma as an emotional reaction to a traumatic event, such as an accident, rape or natural disaster.

It is still possible for a person to experience as a reaction to any event they deem harmful or threatening physically or emotionally.

Both immediately after the event and over the long term, a traumatized person may feel a range of emotions. They may be overwhelmed, helpless, shocked, or in a state of confusion after experiencing these events. Physical symptoms can also result from trauma.

The effects of trauma can last for a long time, adversely affecting the well-being of the person. A persistent and persistent increase in symptoms due to trauma may indicate that post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has developed.

Different types of trauma are present, including:

  • Acute trauma: An event that is stressful or dangerous results in this.
  • Chronic trauma: Experiencing highly stressful events repeatedly and for an extended period of time results in this. Children may be abused, bullied or suffer domestic violence.
  • Complex trauma: Several traumatic events have resulted in this occurrence.

Vicarious trauma or secondary trauma is another type of trauma. In this type of trauma, someone has developed trauma symptoms from being close to someone who has experienced trauma.

A family member, mental health professional, or anyone else who takes care of someone who has suffered a traumatic event is at risk of vicarious trauma. They are often similar to the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

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Mild to severe symptoms of trauma can occur. How a person is affected by a traumatic event depends on several factors, including:

  • Their characteristics
  • Existence of other mental illnesses
  • Experiencing trauma previously
  • An event’s type and characteristics
  • Background of their emotions and their way of dealing with them

Emotional and psychological responses

Trauma victims may experience the following emotions:

During this time, they may have anxiety or mood swings, have difficulty controlling their emotions, or withdraw from others. It is common for people to experience flashbacks and nightmares when a traumatic event occurred.

Read: Emotional disorders

Physical responses

Trauma can trigger physical symptoms as well as emotional ones, including:

People can also experience hyperarousal, which is when they feel like they are on guard all the time. It may be hard to sleep because of this.

Oftentimes, individuals with mental health problems develop other issues, including depression, anxiety and substance abuse.

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Traumatic experiences

It has been estimated that 60-75% of people in North America have experienced a traumatic event. Trauma may occur from the following causes, according to Mind, a UK-based charity:

  • Bullying
  • Harassment
  • Psychological, physical or sexual abuse
  • Sexual assault
  • Traffic collisions
  • Childbirth
  • Life-threatening diseases
  • Suddenly losing a loved one
  • Being attacked
  • Being kidnapped
  • Acts of terrorism
  • Natural disasters
  • War

Traumatic events can occur on an isolated basis or repeatedly. Someone can also experience this if they witness something traumatic happening to another person.

Traumatic events have different effects on different people. It is possible for people who live through the same type of natural disaster to respond very differently to it.

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The symptoms of trauma continue or get worse in the weeks and months following the stressful event that caused them. A person suffering from PTSD has difficulties in everyday life and relationships.

A severe anxiety reaction may include flashbacks, painful memories and unpleasant thoughts.

PTSD can also cause avoidance behaviors. Traumatic events can trigger PTSD if a person attempts to avoid thinking about them, visiting the scene or dealing with its triggers.

While therapy can manage symptoms and improve the quality of life for people with PTSD, the condition may persist for years.

The following factors increase the risk of developing PTSD:

  • Previous trauma
  • A physical injury or pain
  • Following a trauma with little support
  • Dealing with financial difficulties or other stressors simultaneously
  • Previous depression or anxiety

When exposed to a traumatic event, most people do not develop PTSD. It is estimated that 6.8% of Americans experience PTSD in their lifetime.

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Childhood trauma

Childhood trauma

It has been shown that children with developing brains are more vulnerable than adults.

Stress and fear-related hormones are released in children during terrible events, which are linked to a heightened state of stress.

Developmental trauma can disrupt a child’s brain development. In addition, particularly ongoing can negatively impact a child’s mental well-being, physical health and behavior.

Adulthood can be marked by a sense of helplessness and fear. People are at a significantly greater risk for the future when they are traumatized.

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It is possible to improve quality of life and treat trauma symptoms by using several treatments.


Trauma is treated first with therapy. It is optimal for an individual to work with a trauma-informed therapist or therapist who specializes in trauma.

These types of therapies can help traumatized people:

Cognitive-behavioral therapy

Behavioral interventions such as cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) change people’s thinking patterns so they can influence their behaviors and emotions. CBT appears to be the most effective method of treating PTSD.

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing

One common trauma treatment is eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, or EMDR.

In EMDR, the client briefly relives traumatic events while being guided by an eye movement therapist. Through EMDR, people can process and integrate painful memories.

The effects of EMDR on PTSD have been demonstrated in multiple randomized controlled studies.

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Somatic therapies

Traumatic experiences are processed by the body and mind using somatic or body-based techniques.

Several studies published in the Australian Psychotherapy and Counselling Journal indicated that body-based therapies were beneficial for a variety of individuals. The following therapies are available:

  • Somatic experiencing: This approach involves a therapist helping a person to relive traumatic memories in a safe space.
  • Sensorimotor psychotherapy: Psychotherapy and body-based techniques are used together to transform traumatic memories into sources of strength.
  • Acupoint stimulation: An individual applies pressure to specific points on the body to induce relaxation.
  • Touch therapies: Additionally, there are touch therapies such as Reiki and healing touch.

Somatic therapies do not yet have as much evidence to prove their effectiveness as CBT and EDMR do. The researchers say more data will be needed to assess how these methods work.

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The use of medications alone cannot treat trauma or post-traumatic stress disorder, but they can help an individual manage their symptoms, such as anxiety, depression, and sleep disturbances. If someone is unsure about their options, they should speak to their doctor.


The ability to practice self-care can help individuals cope with the psychological, physical, and emotional effects of trauma. Trauma self-care examples include:


An injury can cause the body to respond by going into attack mode. Some of these effects may be mitigated by exercise.

Aerobic exercise may provide PTSD sufferers with an effective treatment.

At least 30 minutes of exercise can be done most days of the week.

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People can ground themselves in the present moment by engaging in mindful breathing and other exercises that focus on being present, thereby preventing them from replaying.

Studies have shown that mindfulness-based treatments show promise as treatments for PTSD, whether they are taken alone or in combination with other therapies.

Connection with others

Traumatic experiences often result in withdrawal from others. However, it is important to connect with family and friends.

Keep in touch with other people to prevent PTSD from developing, explains the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.

You don’t need to talk to people about the disorder if it’s difficult. Getting involved in social and recreational activities improves mood and well-being. Many people find it beneficial to reveal disorder to those they trust.

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Balanced living

Trauma may make it difficult for a traumatized person to relax or sleep well. Mental health is influenced by sleep, relaxation, and diet, among other factors. Whenever possible, people should:

  • Get 7–9 hours of sleep a night
  • Maintain a healthy diet
  • Avoid alcohol and drugs
  • Engage in mindful or enjoyable activities to relieve stress


Those in need of support can turn to others for help. Survivors can also seek support from loved ones or join support groups.

When to seek help

Traumatic incidents should be reported to a mental health professional when symptoms persist or are severe. Its symptoms should be sought out especially if they are interfering with daily functioning or relationships.

If you talk to someone even if your symptoms are mild, you will feel better.

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Every person will experience some kind of trauma once in their life. Many people will recover quickly after experiencing shock and distress.

PTSD is one long-term consequence of trauma in a minority of individuals. People with persistent trauma symptoms can benefit from therapy and self-care to manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life.