What Defines “Trauma” for Different People?

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Trauma is a complex and difficult experience that can uniquely affect each individual. However, not only can a person’s responses to traumatic events vary, what each individual experiences as a traumatic event can also be vastly different. Trauma can take many different forms with varying severity and consequences. Despite the different definitions that trauma can carry, the effects of trauma on one’s mental health can still be very serious and may need to be addressed with the help of professionals. 

Trauma’s Distinct Forms

There can be any number of images elicited when the word “trauma” is mentioned. For some, harrowing events of one’s past can be recalled, such as natural disasters and car accidents, while others may see trauma as a result of social ostracization. Both of these interpretations of “trauma” are equally valid, and the classifications of trauma can be divided into two different categories: “Trauma” (with a capital “T”) and “trauma” (with a lowercase “t”).

Capital “T” Trauma

This form of trauma is what more commonly comes to mind when the word “trauma” is mentioned. These can include:

  • Natural disasters
  • The loss of life
  • Life-threatening medical diagnoses
  • The loss of a family member
  • Victims of physical and sexual abuse
  • Survivors of shootings
  • Survivors of terrorist attacks
  • Living in warzones

These intense and severe traumatic experiences can result in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and the development of unhealthy and destructive coping strategies. 

However, this Trauma does not necessarily have to cause physical harm in order to produce these severe effects. Written or verbal threats to one’s life or well-being can cause just as much harm to an individual. Anxiety, depression, hypervigilance, panic, and more can all also develop as a result of these severe traumatic experiences. 

Lowercase “t” trauma

This kind of trauma is used to describe other personally traumatic events that do not necessarily fit into the overtly severe category of Trauma. Traumas in this category can include:

  • The loss of a pet
  • Feeling socially ostracized (such as not being invited to a birthday party or gathering)
  • Experiencing difficult breakups
  • The loss of important relationships
  • Feeling silenced or harassed
  • Non-life-threatening injuries, such as bruises or broken bones

While these traumas may not necessarily meet the traditional images of “trauma” or PTSD, these events can still create a heavy emotional burden for an individual. Each person will have their own level of resilience when it comes to experiencing trauma of any kind. Therefore, it is very possible that constant exposure to these lowercase “t” traumas can still create debilitating feelings of anxiety, depression, and more as a result of one’s experiences. 

Physical and Emotional Trauma

Likewise, trauma does not always come with a physical component. While injury, violence, and natural disasters can leave physical evidence of a traumatic event, the loss of a loved one can still leave a void in one’s daily life. However, verbal trauma can be just as damaging. Threats to one’s life or safety can create an impending sense of danger surrounding daily life. This can bring with it equally real feelings of anxiety, depression, panic, and the development of unhealthy coping strategies to quell these intense emotions, commonly in the form of using addictive substances. 

Finding What Trauma Means to You

Trauma can mean different things to different people. Thinking that one has not experienced a traumatic event in their life simply because someone else may have experienced their own detrimental trauma can cause a person to deny themselves the help they may need. 

Regardless of an individual’s own experiences with trauma, if one finds images of their experiences constantly invading their thoughts and affecting their mood, it may be necessary to look to professional help to address one’s trauma. Judging one’s own trauma against another’s metric can lead to an unfair perspective of one’s feelings. Creating a healthy plan for each individual’s future means first acknowledging the many different forms that trauma can take and how they can each affect an individual in their own way. 

Taking the First Step

Exposure to either “Trauma” or “trauma” can still have a great impact on one’s mentality and worldview. Making the effort to address trauma and any substance use or self-destructive coping strategies that may have developed is an important first step. Taking this step for oneself is the first hurdle to overcome, and reaching out means accepting that trauma may have played a role in one’s life, regardless of what forms it has taken previously. 

Trauma can take many forms throughout one’s life, and regardless of your experiences and how trauma has affected you, Everlast Recovery Centers is prepared to help you today. Located in Riverside, California, we offer a unique approach to help each individual explore trauma, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and substance abuse that may have resulted from one’s traumatic experiences. Your time with us can be individualized to your needs through a plethora of therapeutic options, from detox and residential care to personalized recovery techniques such as art and music therapy, yoga, mindfulness, and much more. Learning to ground yourself can be a complicated and difficult ordeal, and our comfortable, home-like atmosphere filled with empathetic and supportive peers and professionals can create the environment needed to safely explore the ways in which trauma has affected your life. For more information on how we can personalize your time with us, call to speak to a caring, trained staff member today at (866) 338-6925.

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