Understanding What Is Trauma And How It Affects People

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), trauma is a person’s emotional and mental response after a terrible incident like an accident, physical or sexual assault, or a natural disaster. Immediate reactions after such events include denial and shock. Long-term reactions include emotional outbursts, flashbacks, or even physical symptoms like headaches. 

These feelings are normal, and people can have different timelines for recovering from a life event. However, a trained professional can help affected individuals find effective and safe coping options to deal with their situations. That is why having an understanding of what is trauma and seeking the right help for it is important.

On that note, let’s understand what it means to have trauma, its symptoms, and available treatment options.

Symptoms of trauma

What is trauma?

The emotional and psychological reaction to a highly stressful life event is deemed as trauma. Examples can include war zones, natural disasters, the death of a loved one, and much more. Trauma can cause different mental and physical symptoms.

Emotional symptoms of trauma

  • Intrusive thoughts like flashbacks or nightmares
  • Avoidance of things and people that remind the individual of the traumatic event
  • Being hyper-aware of danger
  • Being easily startled or frightened
  • Being affected by triggers that remind the individual of the traumatic event
  • Self-esteem issues and guilt
  • Having an extremely small window of tolerance (being easily overwhelmed or having difficulty controlling emotions)

Physical symptoms of trauma

  • Chronic pain
  • Sleep problems
  • Chest pain
  • Headaches 
  • Sweating
  • Fatigue
  • Digestive issues

Types of Trauma

Every person has varying levels and duration of traumatic symptoms. That is why it is divided into several types. These include:

  • Acute trauma: resulting from a single stressful life event.
  • Chronic trauma: resulting from prolonged and repeated exposure to stressful life events like bullying, domestic abuse, child abuse, etc.
  • Complex trauma: resulting from exposure to multiple stressful and traumatic life events.

Read more: Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Treatment options

Several treatment options are available for people to cope with trauma symptoms and effectively recover from it.

1. Therapy

Therapy is considered one of the first-line instruments for dealing with trauma. Ideally, a therapist specializing in trauma-focused cases is the most suitable to deal with such patients. There are different types of therapy that an individual with trauma can benefit from. These include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy: this type of therapy helps people change their thought patterns to impact their emotions and behaviors positively.
  • Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EDMR): this type helps people briefly relive some specific life events while the therapist directs their eye movements. This is done to help the individual process and deal with traumatic memories.

Read more: Best Online Therapy Platforms

2. Medications

Medications alone are not able to deal with trauma. However, they help a person manage depression, anxiety, and sleep disturbances associated with it. 

Disclaimer: The above-suggested medications should only be used after proper diagnosis and discussion with professionals. Unregulated use can be life-threatening.


People dealing with trauma require proper support and care to recover effectively from their condition. This is why exploring what is trauma and how it affects people is beneficial for everyone. When you know what trauma means, you can spread awareness about a widespread issue and empower yourself with information and tools to help you and your loved ones.

Now that you understand what is trauma, let’s help you understand the various mental health disorders associated with it. Post-traumatic stress disorder and acute stress disorder are two conditions closely related to trauma. To learn more about them, click here.

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