What is Trauma?

What is Trauma?

Understanding Trauma, the Impact of Trauma, and Recognizing a Path to Healing

The word “trauma” can hold different meanings for different people and probably means something very specific to you depending on the events you have experienced throughout your life. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines trauma as “a disordered psychic or behavioral state resulting from severe mental or emotional stress or physical injury.” This description is generally accurate but does not tell the whole story. To understand trauma, it is necessary to recognize that each person experiences and copes with these terrible events differently. And while one person may bounce back like nothing ever happened, another may internalize the experience and have lasting psychological difficulties.

There is a common misconception that only people who have experienced the most terrible and extreme of events, such as surviving military combat or being wounded in a mass shooting, can have experienced trauma. This simply isn’t true. Clearly, both examples could result in lasting trauma, but it is important to understand that other, less obvious events are just as capable of causing trauma. For example, something as simple as ongoing workplace stress can have a traumatic and lasting impact.

Though trauma comes in different shapes and sizes, and can have a different impact on everyone, all trauma has the potential to have a lasting psychological impact requiring intervention.


Below are a few examples trauma

  • Combat
  • Pandemic
  • Wildfires
  • Car accidents
  • Sexual assault
  • First responder or military trauma
  • Death of a loved one
  • Death of a loved pet
  • Life changing medical procedures
  • Extreme work stress
  • Divorce
  • Job loss


The Impact of Trauma

The lasting impact of trauma may differ from person to person, but often has common symptoms such as emotional distress, sleep problems, physical manifestations like stomach problems or high blood pressure, difficulty with relationships, substance abuse, or even questioning one’s meaning in life.

The underlying events that led to the trauma will always be there, but it is possible to move beyond the lasting psychological impact. We can help! The Veterans Health and Trauma Clinic takes the entire person into account to design a care pathway toward a deeper sense of personal mastery, well-being, and growth. If you have experienced trauma and would like to begin healing, click the link below.


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