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Trauma Basics

Updated: Oct 21, 2022

The traditional definition of trauma as defined by the DSM-5 limits

trauma to being an actual or threatened physical experience of death,

serious injury, or sexual violence. While this definition can certainly be useful, it excludes a form a trauma that has been well documented

and researched: Psychological trauma. Psychological trauma can be defined as ANY event which is extremely upsetting, temporarily overwhelms an individual’s internal resources, and produces lasting psychological symptoms; this is the type of trauma that most individuals experience.

Examples of trauma include either the direct experience

or witnessing of:

  • Death (accidental, violent, prolonged suffering).

  • Child abuse (sexual and/or physical).

  • Rape (non-consensual oral, anal, or vaginal sexual penetration with a body part or object).

  • Sexual assault (any forced sexual contact, including rape).

  • Stranger physical assault (muggings, beatings, stabbings, shootings, or any other violent act from a stranger).

  • Intimate partner violence/spousal abuse (physically or sexually assaultive behaviour by an individual against another in an intimate relationship). This Includes: humiliation, degradation, extreme criticism, stalking, and/or threats of violence towards children, pets, and/or property.

  • Intergenerational trauma (trauma that is transferred from the first generation of trauma survivors to the second and further generations).

  • War (includes death, disfigurement, physical injury, torture, confinement, extreme physical depravation, and/or the involvement in injuring or killing others).

  • Transportation accidents (vehicle, airplane, train, or maritime).

  • Natural disasters (floods, fires, earthquakes, tornadoes, etc.).

  • Fire and burns (house fires, burns from industrial fires, fireworks, intentional burns caused by others).

It is critical to note that human reactions to trauma are NORMAL

reactions to ABNORMAL events. Some of these reactions may include:

  • Shock, denial, or disbelief

  • Feeling disconnected or numb

  • Insomnia and/or nightmares

  • Confusion

  • Being startled easily

  • Anxiety and fear

  • Grief, shame, or guilt

  • Anger, irritability, or mood swings

  • Withdrawal from others

  • Feeling sad or hopeless

  • Aches, pains, or muscle tension

Trauma is a complex experience, one which literally changes the

brain’s chemistry and the body’s functioning. Although the experience

of trauma results in one of the most difficult scenarios to reach out

and seek help from, it is crucial to know that you CAN overcome the distress and suffering. With the help of an EMDR trained therapist, you can eventually begin to live the life you envision.

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