What is Trauma? Types, Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

Trauma is our reaction and response towards any stressful and horrifying event that we experience. Those events could be an accident, natural disaster, or war zone. It’s important to keep in mind that everyone responds differently to an event, and not everyone would face a trauma from the same event. It causes many emotional, psychological, and physical symptoms. Today, we’ll discuss what is trauma, its types, causes, symptoms, and treatment in detail. 

Some people face the symptoms of trauma and they go away within a few weeks, and others have to deal with it for a long time. If a person receives proper treatment, then one can identify the root cause of it and deal with it in healthier and constructive ways. 

What is Trauma?

According to APA (American Psychological Association), trauma is your emotional reaction towards some horrifying event like a natural disaster, rape, murder, or an accident. It’s such an event that you find it emotional and physically harmful and dangerous. 

It’s important to mention it here that different people exhibit different types of reactions and responses to different events. However, a traumatic person experiences various emotions before and after the event, both immediately and in the long term. It could be the feelings of shock, helplessness, overwhelmingness, and find it difficult to process the whole experience. It also causes physical signs sometimes. 

Trauma has a long-term impact on the mental health and well-being of a person. If it persists over time, its symptoms won’t easily go away. It means that the trauma has transformed into mental health disorders like PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). 

Types of Trauma 

Trauma has many types; some of them are as follows; 

  • Acute Trauma: as the name implies, it happens because you go through a single dangerous and stressful event 
  • Chronic Trauma: it happens when you go through prolong stressful situations over time like; domestic violence, bullying, or child abuse. 
  • Complex Trauma: it happens when you face various traumatic experiences and events
  • Vicarious Trauma: it also goes by the name of secondary trauma, and it happens when you develop close ties with a person that has faced a traumatic experience. 

PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) results when signs of trauma aggravate and prolong over time from few weeks to months just after the traumatic experience. It impacts your personal/professional relationship and daily life routine. However, some of the common symptoms are; 

  • Persistent memories of the traumatic experience 
  • Flashbacks 
  • Severe anxiety attacks 

Avoidance behavior is also a major symptom of PTSD. It is when you ignore thoughts of the traumatic experience and avoiding the trigger points like not visiting the place where it happened. However, the symptoms of PTSD remain for years. If you receive proper treatment, then you would learn healthier ways to manage those symptoms and improve your quality of life. Some of the risk factors that could develop PTSD are as follows; 

  • Previous depression or anxiety 
  • Facing triggering points at the same time like financial issues 
  • Receiving no support after the traumatic experience 
  • Injury or physical pain 
  • Past traumatic experience

Many people don’t extend symptoms of PTSD after the traumatic experience. According to an estimate by the National Institute of Mental Health, the lifetime pervasiveness of PTSD is 6.8% in the USA. 

Childhood Trauma 

Many research studies have found that kids are more vulnerable to traumatic experiences because their brain is in the growing stage. They face and experience a high level of stress during the traumatic event, and their bodies discharge hormones relevant to fear and stress. 

Such type of traumatic experience disrupts the growth of the normal development of the brain. Resultantly, it becomes a regular and ongoing trauma, and it impacts the behavior, physical health, mental health, and emotional development of the child in the long term. 

The feelings of helplessness and sense of fear would be with him in adulthood. The person becomes vulnerable to the impact of trauma in the future.  

Symptoms of Trauma 

The signs and symptoms of trauma vary from mild to severe and aggravating. There are many elements that would help you to know how a certain traumatic event would impact a person, and they’re as follows; 

  • Ways to deal with emotions and their background 
  • Traits and types of the event/events 
  • Past exposure to the traumatic situation 
  • Prevalence of the mental health signs 
  • And their characteristics 

Physical Responses 

Some of the main physical symptoms of trauma are as follows; 

  • Jumpy feelings 
  • Sweating 
  • Fast heartbeat 
  • Fatigue 
  • Digestive symptoms 
  • Headaches 

Sometimes, a person feels hyper-arousal or finds him/herself in a state of alertness constantly. It becomes very difficult for you to sleep in such a state of mind. That’s why people develop other types of mental health issues like substance abuse addiction, anxiety, or depression. 

What is trauma? Its signs, causes, impact, and how to deal with it

Psychological and Emotional Responses 

Some of the psychological and emotional symptoms are as follows; 

  • Difficult to focus and concentrate
  • Irritability 
  • Hopelessness 
  • Guilty 
  • Numbness 
  • Depression 
  • Anxiety & Stress 
  • Confusion & feeling baffled 
  • Shame 
  • Sadness & melancholy 
  • Fear 
  • Anger
  • Denial 

Emotional outburst also happens to a person, and it becomes very difficult for him/her to manage such feelings. Nightmares and flashbacks are common to that person and one experiences a traumatic event in one’s mind repetitively. 

Traumatic Experiences & Causes of Trauma 

Approximately 60 to 75% of the people in North America face traumatic situations/events in their lives. According to the Charity Mind in the UK, some of the main causes of trauma are as follows; 

  • Ware 
  • Natural Disasters 
  • Terrorism 
  • Kidnapped 
  • Being attacked 
  • Loss of love one suddenly 
  • Life-threatening diseases 
  • Childbirth 
  • Traffic accident 
  • Sexual assault like rape 
  • Psychological/physical sexual abuse 
  • Harassment 
  • Bullying 

When we say the traumatic event, then it could be a repetitive or isolated single event/s. A person would also feel trauma after seeing the horrifying things happening to someone else. However, different people react differently to the same traumatic event. 

Treatment of Trauma 

There are many treatments available that help you to deal with the symptoms of trauma in order to live a better life. Some of them are as follows; 


A trauma specialist therapist works with the patient that is going through a traumatic experience. There are different types of therapy, and they’re as follows; 

CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy)

CBT allows you to alter your thinking pattern, and it impacts your emotions and behavior. Many studies and practices have proved that CBT falls under the category of very effective treatment for PTSD. 

EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing) 

EMDR is a very famous and common therapy, and it helps a person to deal with the precise traumatic experience. The therapist straightens the eye movement of the patient during the therapy. However, the goal of the therapy is to combine and process the traumatic memories. Many trials have shown that EMDR is also a good and effective treatment for PTSD. 

Somatic Therapies 

It uses body-based techniques to assist the body and mind to process traumatic experiences. The body-based techniques help a wide range of people, and the therapy comprises of following elements; 

  • Touch Therapy: it comprises therapeutic touch therapy, healing touch, and Reiki. 
  • Acupoint Stimulation: it deals with applying pressure on certain body points to give your relaxation 
  • Sensorimotor Psychotherapy: it integrates body-based techniques and psychotherapy to convert traumatic experience into your strength 
  • Somatic Experiences: the therapist allows a person to mentally go through the same traumatic experience under his guidance and safe conditions 


It’s important to keep in mind that medicines don’t cure trauma and PTSD. In fact, it assists a person in managing sleep disturbance, depression, and anxiety. A person should consult a professional if things are aggravating. 


There are some self-care techniques that help a person deal with the physical, psychological, and emotional symptoms of trauma. They are as follows; 


The traumatic experience puts you in the fight-or-flight mode, and exercising helps you to lower such effects. Many research studies have shown that exercising helps you to fight against PTSD. 


Mindfulness is a very good activity of focusing on your breathing, and it allows you not to go to the past traumatic experience. Studies have shown that mindfulness is a very good technique to intervene in PTSD. 


Socializing and connecting with loved ones like friends and family members help you to protect yourself from PTSD and reliving traumatic experiences. It’s not mandatory that you should talk with other people; you should do it only if you feel comfortable. However, being surrounded and engaging with others help you to prevent traumatic thoughts. 

Balanced Lifestyle 

When going through a traumatic period, it is difficult to sleep and relax your mind. Therefore, it’s important to live a balanced life in such situations as participating in joyful activities, no alcohol or drugs, eating good food, and 8 hours of sleep daily. 

Conclusion: What is Trauma? Types, Causes, Symptoms, Treatment 

After an in-depth study of what is trauma, its types, causes, symptoms, and treatment, we’ve realized traumatic experiences have a great impact on your life. If you exhibit any of the symptoms, then you should follow and practice any of the abovementioned treatments in order to get your life on track.