Understanding Trauma



What is Trauma?

Trauma can be understood as experiencing or witnessing an event involving actual or threatened serious injury, sexual violence, or death. *(Based on definition of trauma in DSM-5)

Examples of trauma include:

  • Serious accident or serious injury

  • Natural disaster (e.g., tornado, hurricane, earthquake, fire, or flood)

  • Sudden life-threatening illness

  • Being attacked with a gun, knife, or other weapon

  • Attacked without a weapon, but with the intent to kill or seriously injure

  • Severely beaten, or witnessing severe physical violence

  • Sexual abuse as a child or adolescent

  • Rape or attempted rape

  • Physical force or the threat of physical force leading to unwanted sexual contact

  • Aggravated assault

  • Combat or being in a combat zone

  • Accidental death or murder of a close friend or family member

  • Suicide of a close friend or family member


Common Reactions to Trauma Include:

  • Fear and anxiety

  • Re-experiencing of the trauma: unwanted thoughts, flashbacks, nightmares

  • Increased arousal, impatience

  • Avoidance

  • Anger and irritability

  • Guilt and shame

  • Grief and depression

  • Negative self-image

  • Difficult trusting others

  • Use of alcohol or other substances

  • Difficulty with sexual relationships