Common health issue

What is Trauma? Types, Symptoms, Treatment, What to know

Trauma problem

What is trauma?

According to American Psychological Association (APA), trauma is “an emotional feedback to terrible events such as an accident, rape, or natural disaster.” However, a person may feel trauma as feedback to any event they find physically or emotionally threatening or harmful.

A traumatized person may experience a range of emotions immediately after the event and in the long term. They may experience being overwhelmed, helpless, shocked, or have difficulty processing their experiences. Also, it can cause physical symptoms. Trauma can have permanent effects on a person’s health. If symptoms persist and do not reduce in severity, it can point out that the trauma has built into a mental health problem known as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). However, there are several kinds of trauma, including:-

  • Acute trauma: This trauma may result from a single stressful or dangerous event.
  • Chronic trauma: This trauma may result from repeated and prolonged exposure to highly stressful events. For instance, it may include child abuse, bullying, or domestic violence cases.
  • Complex trauma: This trauma may result from exposure to multiple traumatic events.

However, vicarious trauma is another way of trauma. With this way of trauma, a person builds trauma symptoms from close contact with someone who has felt a traumatic event. Family members, health consultants, and others who care for those who have felt a traumatic event are at risk of vicarious trauma. However, the symptoms often reflect those of PTSD.


The trauma symptoms range from mild to severe. Various factors determine how a traumatic event affects a person, including:-

  • Their characteristics
  • The presence of other mental health issues
  • Previous exposure to traumatic incidents
  • The kind and characteristics of the incident or incidents
  • Their background and approach to handling emotional feelings

Emotional and physical experiences

However, a person who has felt trauma may experience:-

  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Fear
  • Sadness
  • Shame
  • Confusion
  • Anxiety
  •  Depression
  • Numbness
  • Guilt
  • Hopelessness
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating

However, they may have emotional explosions, find it challenging to manage their feelings, or withdraw from others. Flashbacks, where a person relieves the traumatic incidents in their mind, are common, as are nightmares.

Physical responses

Along with an emotional response, trauma can cause physical symptoms, including:-

  • Headaches
  • Digestive symptoms
  • Fatigue
  • Racing heart
  • Sweating
  • Feeling jumpy

Sometimes, a person will also experience hyperarousal or when someone experiences as though they are in a constant state of alertness. This may build it difficult to sleep. Individuals may also have other mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, and substance abuse.

Traumatic experiences

However, some research suggests that 60-75 percent of North America experience a traumatic event at some point.

However, traumatic incidents can be isolated or repeated, ongoing events. A person can also feel trauma after witnessing something traumatic happening to someone else. However, most people have different responses to traumatic events. For instance, those living through the same natural disaster can react differently despite experiencing the same event.


However, PTSD builds when trauma symptoms persist or get worse over weeks and months. It is distressing and interferes with a person’s daily life and relationships. However, trauma symptoms may include severe anxiety, flashbacks, and persistent memories of the event.

PTSD may last for years, although some treatments can support people in managing their symptoms and improve their quality of life.

Risk factors for building PTSD may include:-

  • Previous trauma
  • Physical pain or injury
  • Having little help after trauma
  • Dealing with other stressors at the same time, like financial difficulty
  • Previous anxiety or depression


Several treatments can support people with trauma to cope with their symptoms and enhance their quality of life.


However, therapy is the best trauma treatment. Ideally, an individual will work with a trauma-informed or trauma-focused therapist. Different kinds of therapy a person with trauma could benefit from include:-

Cognitive-behavioral therapy

However, it supports changing their thought patterns to influence their behaviors and emotions. Similarly, evidence helps CBT is the most effective approach for PTSD.

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing

During EMDR, individuals briefly relive specific traumatic responses while the therapist directs their eye movements. However, it aims to support people’s process and integrate traumatic memories.

Somatic therapies

However, some therapists use body-based techniques to help the mind and the body process trauma. These therapies may include:-

  • Somatic experiences: This therapy may involve a therapist supporting a person to relive traumatic memories in a safe space.
  • Sensorimotor psychotherapy: This type of therapy may combine psychotherapy with body-based techniques to turn traumatic memories into sources of strength.
  • Acupoint stimulation: This therapy may involve a practitioner applying pressure to specific points on the body, which induces a state of relaxation.
  • Touch therapies: This therapy may include Reiki, healing, and therapeutic touch therapy.

Currently, there is not as much proof to manifest the effectiveness of somatic therapies as there is for CBT and EDMR. However, some researchers suggest that more data on these methods will support determining how they work.