Three Main Types of Trauma

Trauma, as defined by the American Psychological Association (APA), is an emotional response to a terrible event such as an accident, rape, or natural disaster. These events can be considered deeply distressing or disturbing, resulting in physical or psychological trauma. It’s important to know that there are three main types of trauma: acute, chronic, and complex. 

When subjected to trauma, a person may respond in several ways. They may be in a state of shock, grief, or denial. The APA revealed that people may even experience long-term reactions. For example, individuals may experience unpredictable emotions, flashbacks, strained relationships, and even physical symptoms. 

Additionally, people who have experienced a traumatic event may have trouble processing their experiences and have difficulty moving forward with their lives. When symptoms persist and do not decrease in severity, it can indicate that the trauma has developed into a mental health condition, called post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 

Furthermore, there is also a form of secondary trauma, called vicarious trauma. This occurs when a person develops trauma symptoms from close contact with someone who has experienced a traumatic event. The symptoms will often mirror those associated with PTSD. Although, this is more common in family members, mental health professionals, and others caring for those who have experienced a traumatic event. 

Let’s take a closer look at the three main types of trauma.

Acute Trauma

This form of trauma results from a single distressing or dangerous event. The event threatens the person’s emotional or physical security. The experience creates a lasting impression, and it can also affect the way the person thinks and behaves.

Symptoms of acute trauma will generally include: 

  • Excessive anxiety or panic
  • Shock or denial
  • Feelings of guilt, sadness, grief, or hopelessness
  • Irritation
  • Confusion
  • Nightmares or insomnia
  • Feeling disconnected
  • Lack of trust
  • Inability to focus on work or studies
  • Lack of self-care or personal hygiene
  • Aggressive behavior

Chronic Trauma

Next, chronic trauma results from repeated and prolonged exposure to highly stressful events. Chronic trauma may result from a long-term serious illness, sexual abuse, domestic violence, bullying, and subjection to other extreme situations. Several events of acute trauma, as well as untreated acute trauma, may develop into chronic trauma. The symptoms of chronic trauma can even appear years after the event took place. For instance, these symptoms can include unpredictable emotional outbursts, anxiety, extreme anger, flashbacks, fatigue, body aches, headaches, and nausea. Trust issues may also be present, resulting in unstable relationships, and instability with work. 

Complex Trauma

Lastly, complex trauma results from exposure to multiple traumatic events or experiences. These events usually result from negative experiences within interpersonal relationships. Complex trauma can often have a severe impact on the person’s mind. This is commonly seen in individuals who have been victims of childhood abuse, neglect, domestic violence, family disputes, or other repetitive situations. Chronic trauma can affect a person’s relationships and performance at work or school. 

In short, it’s extremely important to seek the proper help and treatment to manage, and move past, traumatic experiences. Have you or a loved one experienced a traumatic event? At Feinberg Consulting, our team of highly trained professionals is here to help guide you on your journey towards healing. Contact us today to learn more at 877.538.5425.

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One Comment

  1. What caught my attention is when you said that those who have been victims of domestic violence, childhood abuse, and other repetitive situations must be suffering from complex trauma. With this in mind, I will consider seeing a mental health professional later this week. My biological parents abandoned me when I was only 6, and this might have caused my anxiety and all other mental health problems.

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