Trauma: Types and Stressors


Reviewed by Jodi Jaspan, MS, LPC

Many people who struggle with mental health or substance use disorders have experienced trauma at some point in their lives. A number of different events and stressors can cause a traumatic response in an individual. Whether the trauma happened yesterday or many years ago, the emotional and psychological impact can be profound.

Proper treatment is critical to address the lasting effects of trauma. In this article, we’ll look at different types of trauma and the stressors behind them, and we’ll discuss the value of a trauma-informed approach to addiction treatment.

Types of Traumatic Events

The National Traumatic Stress Network has identified a wide range of events and stressors that can cause trauma. [1] A few of the most common traumatic events include:

  • Sexual abuse or assault
  • Emotional abuse
  • Physical abuse
  • A violent attack or crime
  • An accident, injury or serious illness
  • Natural disaster

While traumatic experiences often involve a life-threatening event, any situation that makes you feel helpless and overwhelmed can be traumatic, even if physical harm is not involved. Trauma is subjective; an experience that leaves one person traumatized may have little impact on another individual.

Certain risk factors increase the probability of an individual suffering trauma. A person who is under significant stress or who has recently suffered a loss is at greater risk for being traumatized by an experience; individuals who have suffered childhood trauma are also more susceptible to trauma as adults. [2]

Symptoms of Trauma

symptoms of trauma

People react in many different ways to a traumatic experience. Those dealing with the effects of trauma shouldn’t feel like their symptoms are wrong or abnormal. Symptoms of trauma may include:

  • Nightmares or insomnia
  • Shock or denial
  • Feelings of guilt or blaming oneself
  • Feelings of sadness or hopelessness
  • Withdrawing from other people
  • Flashbacks to the traumatic event
  • Difficulty concentrating

Trauma symptoms may last for a few days, or they may persist for months or years. In most cases, these physical and emotional effects slowly fade as time passes and you process the traumatic experience.

Trauma and Mental Health Treatment

There’s a strong relationship between trauma and mental health disorders. Anyone who has experienced a traumatic event is at risk of developing a mental health condition, such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, or substance abuse.[3] If you’re experiencing symptoms that interfere with your daily life, it may be time to seek help from a mental health professional.

Treatment centers will take a sensitive and compassionate approach to each client’s treatment, acknowledging the painful effects of trauma and offering an environment that promotes healing. This philosophy toward treatment is known as trauma-informed care.

The effects of trauma can be long-lasting and can interfere with daily life, but treatment is available to help trauma survivors heal. With the right therapy, it’s possible to heal the wounds of trauma and move forward with a healthy, fulfilled life.

If you are located in eastern Pennsylvania and are looking for trauma-informed mental health care, The Light Program can help. Find a location near you or reach out to our admissions team for assistance.

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