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What is Trauma?

In this blog, Hannah Trimble from Shawmind explores trauma.

The term ‘trauma’ is frequently used in the current mental health climate; with up to eight in ten people in the general population having experienced at least one traumatic incident in their lifetime. The definition of trauma, the causes and its subsequent impact on the individual is still misunderstood. Simply put, a trauma is any event and the subsequent emotional response to an event(s), which cause an individual to experience differing levels of distress. ​​This distress can either, if processed correctly, have a minimal effect on the psyche, a mild-to-moderate effect one’s functioning or can be disabling for some individuals. This article focusses on emotional (psychological) and not physical trauma and provides an outline of trauma in comparison to PTSD.

Emotional trauma can be categorised as the following: acute, chronic or complex. Acute emotional trauma is the mental response that happens during or immediately following the incident. Chronic trauma is a prolonged response from a past traumatic event or incident. Complex trauma is a response to multiple traumatic events, which creates psychological distress and has a profound effect on one’s ability to function. Of course, an individual can become ‘re-traumatised’ if they experience the same or similar distressing event more than once.

Traumatic experiences during childhood, whether acute, chronic or complex, are referred to as ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences), for which, over four in ten people have experienced an ACE during their childhood. Some individuals are more neurologically susceptible to having psychological distress