While psychological trauma might be less obvious than physical trauma, it can still have a significant negative impact on a person’s quality of life. Something that happened in the past can affect a person’s mood, actions, and reactions to certain events many years later.

Generally, trauma is a psychological response to very disturbing events, such as accidents, assaults, or disasters. However, a loss of a loved one or divorce may also turn out to be a traumatic experience. Our perception of various negative events is always subjective, so the same events might be more or less traumatizing for different people.

Besides, people’s reactions to some events may depend on their history of trauma. For instance, a person who survived a type 5 hurricane and lost a loved one because of it might be more traumatized by a less destructive minor hurricane than someone else because of the memories of a similar event.

There is a spectrum of trauma reactions, as well as different types of trauma. In this article, we will consider some of the most important facts about emotional and psychological trauma.

If you have symptoms of trauma, you may ask for professional help. For instance, you can speak to a therapist online. Here is some information that might help you better understand this issue and figure out whether or not you need help.

Types of Trauma

There are different types of trauma. First of all, trauma can be caused by different factors. Secondly, it may last for different periods of time and have different complications in each particular case. Here are some of the most common types of trauma.

1. Acute trauma

As the name suggests, acute trauma is an immediate reaction to a certain event. It is characterized by severe distress and may also have various additional symptoms. However, most often, acute trauma is a relatively short-term reaction. People often experience acute trauma after car accidents, an assault, or a sudden loss of a loved one.

2. Chronic trauma

Chronic trauma usually develops as a result of traumatic experiences that occur repeatedly or last for a long time. For example, it may be a reaction to continuous neglect, persistent abuse, bullying, or violence.

3. Secondary trauma

Trauma of this kind occurs in response to witnessing someone else’s traumatic experiences. Secondary trauma is common among doctors, law enforcement, and first responders because these professions often involve seeing other people suffer.

With time, people from such professions may also develop compassion fatigue, avoiding emotional reactions to other people’s pain. Compassion fatigue acts as a defense mechanism against continuous distress.

4. Complex trauma

Complex trauma may follow multiple traumatic experiences, particularly when a person is unable to escape the situation. This sort of trauma can make the person feel unsafe in the future and lead to hypervigilance so that the person is constantly monitoring the environment in an attempt to detect a possible threat as early as possible.

5. Childhood trauma

There is a wide range of childhood experiences that can be traumatizing. When children witness traumatizing events while their coping skills are still underdeveloped, such a kind of trauma may stay with them for many years and have a strong impact on their adult lives. Quite often, childhood trauma is a result of abuse, abandonment, neglect, or a loss of parents.

While abandonment is a frequent reason for childhood trauma, abandonment trauma is common among not only children but also adults. Quite often, people experience trauma not because of particularly dangerous experiences but because of the feeling of loneliness and isolation that follows certain events.

This is also a reason why a loss of a loved one can be so traumatizing. Similarly, people might be traumatized by an inability to maintain their social connections. For instance, religious people who change their beliefs or leave their religious community often experience religious trauma syndrome because of the loss of social connections and a change in lifestyle.

Common Symptoms of Trauma

Here are some of the common signs of trauma:

1. Hypervigilance

Traumatic events may make a person hypervigilant, constantly scanning the environment for possible threats. This is a natural response to traumatic events.

2. Intrusive memories and thoughts

People with trauma often experience intrusive thoughts about the traumatic event, especially when they encounter something that reminds them of that event or evokes negative associations.

3. Denial

Trauma denial is a common coping mechanism people may use (intentionally or unintentionally) to distance themselves from a traumatic event. While denial can create certain problems in communication, it may also protect your mind from the strong initial shock.

4. Feeling unsafe or vulnerable

Traumatic events can easily disrupt people’s initial perception of the world as a safe place. As a result, even situations that have nothing to do with the traumatic event from the past may make a person feel vulnerable and unsafe.

5. Hyperarousal

Trauma can also make a person generally more nervous and anxious. Quite often, this is a result of increased levels of stress hormones which are released during the so-called fight-or-flight response.

Trauma vs. PTSD

Some of the symptoms of trauma listed above can also be symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. However, it’s important to keep in mind that if you experience some of these symptoms, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you have PTSD. 

Perhaps, the main difference between these mental health problems is that symptoms of PTSD are generally more severe. Besides, one can only be diagnosed with PTSD in less than a month after a traumatic event because even severe symptoms usually ease with time.

However, there are also particularly disturbing symptoms that may indicate a high risk of developing PTSD. Here are some of them.

  • Avoidance

Traumatic events may change a person’s habits and lead to avoidance. People with trauma may start to avoid certain people, activities, and situations. Avoidance may get stronger with time because avoidant behavior may reinforce a person’s belief that their environment is dangerous. As a result, avoidance may worsen the symptoms of trauma and eventually lead to the development of PTSD.

  • Loss of interest

Another dangerous symptom of trauma is a loss of interest in activities that used to bring feelings of joy and fulfillment. Such a symptom may develop along with detachment from others and indicate a high risk of developing depression. When you start feeling positive emotions again, it might be one of the signs you are healing from trauma.

  • Unhealthy coping practices

Given that symptoms of trauma can be very distressing, people with trauma may resort to various unhealthy coping practices, such as alcohol and drug use, in an attempt to ease the symptoms and stop the flow of intrusive negative thoughts and memories.

Final Thoughts

Emotional trauma is a result of particularly distressing life events. Symptoms of trauma may have a significant negative impact on a person’s quality of life. Besides, while symptoms of trauma usually ease with time, there is also a risk of developing PTSD and other mental health problems.

If you experience trauma, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. While traditional in-person therapy may not be a convenient option for those who have a busy work schedule, online therapy platforms like Calmerry offer a more flexible solution.

For instance, you can opt for video chat therapy and get the necessary help from virtually anywhere. Learn more about the benefits of therapy to get ready for your first session.