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The Different Types of Trauma: A Detailed Guide

Trauma can significantly impact a person’s life in a myriad of ways. It’s a complex issue, and it’s one that people don’t often understand.

This is, in part, because trauma is a subject experience. That said, there’s also a lot of gaps in the public knowledge about trauma. We’re going to explore a few different types of trauma today, giving you a little insight into how traumatic experiences operate.

Hopefully, the information below will give you some idea of the different types of traumatic events. Let’s get started.

Understanding Types of Trauma

The first thing that we should note is the fact that trauma isn’t something that can be accurately described by a single definition. We could say that trauma gets caused by painful or difficult experiences. That wouldn’t do justice to the nuance and variety of traumatic experiences, though.

People experience things differently. Some people are more conditioned to difficult experiences. Others might have a higher sensitivity to emotional nuances.

One person might get traumatized by the abstract events occurring in their community. The fear to leave the house out in a community that doesn’t welcome or accept a person could generate trauma.

On the other hand, another person might get subjected to physical or emotional abuse by someone close to them. That could cause trauma, just as an unexpected encounter with a stranger on the street could be traumatic to someone else.

In the midst of such a variety of potentially traumatic events, we can narrow down these instances into a few primary categories; acute trauma, chronic trauma, and complex trauma.

What Is Acute Trauma?

Acute trauma is the sort that comes from a single experience. In most cases, this experience puts the person in a position that makes them vulnerable in a physical or emotional way.

These situations are often, but not always, interpersonal. Instances of assault are common sources of trauma for people. The same goes for things like car accidents, natural disasters, and other situations that threaten physical health.

Acute instances of trauma have to exist in isolated experiences. One thing happens. That thing triggers your fight or flight response, confuses you, or leaves you afraid and vulnerable.

Instances of acute trauma stand alone, but they might exist in relation to a number of other traumatic events. Those events can feed off each other in a person’s mind and generate a larger psychological issue.

A series of acute traumatic events often turn into what’s called chronic trauma

What Is Chronic Trauma?

Chronic trauma occurs when someone gets subjected to lasting and ongoing traumatic events. People who grow up with a sexually abusive family member and get subjected to assault for a period of years experience chronic trauma.

The same can be said about abusive partnerships. Children who get bullied over a period of years might also experience chronic trauma. Further, extended events that require active participation in traumatic environments can cause chronic trauma.

Going to war is a good example of this.

Chronic trauma can manifest in the victim’s life in a number of ways. We often see issues with anxiety, aggression, confusion, depression, or physical illness in the wake of these events.

These experiences are impactful enough to alter a person’s feelings about themselves and others. Depending on the nature of the experiences and the individual in question, there’s no telling how difficult the symptoms of chronic trauma can be.

What Is Complex Trauma?

Complex trauma deals with multiple experiences that tend to relate, typically connecting to relationships with a person’s core loved ones.

In many cases, complex trauma is the result of neglect, abuse, or abandonment by the individual’s parents. It’s also common to see complex trauma in the wake of long and abusive relationships.

Because these instances touch on the individual’s personal foundations and sense of security, the response can involve life-altering side-effects. Mental illness, decreased health outcomes, PTSD, intergenerational trauma, and even poverty are logical next steps.

The experiences that come as a result of complex trauma often lead to further instances of acute and chronic trauma. For example, different types of childhood trauma often lead individuals to what’s called “trauma bonding.”

Trauma bonding involves attaching one’s self to the individual who is traumatizing them. When someone’s core relationships with family members get founded on abuse, an individual might find comfort in those relationships in adulthood.

Further, individuals with corresponding trauma often find one another and continue the cycle of generational trauma by recreating the trauma that was handed down to them.

Recovery and Treatment Options

The important thing to note is that trauma of any kind has the possibility of being treated. Because traumatic issues are so tied to a person’s life, it can feel like the side effects are permanent and unmovable.

Counseling and various forms of therapy are available to help resolve trauma and get a person’s life back on track. Further, you can purchase trauma insurance that will provide financial compensation if you do happen to get harmed by a traumatic event.

Knowing when or if to seek help can be a challenge, though. Oftentimes, individuals are prevented from seeking help by those who would abuse them. Different circumstances prove to be obstacles to finding help.

There are ways to find help, though. As a general rule of thumb, it doesn’t do harm to see a counselor. If you feel as though you could use help, that’s a good sign that you would benefit from counseling.

When someone doesn’t support your desire to get help, that’s something to be very cautious about. If you need support, you should have the ability to seek help regardless of how anyone else feels.

Want to Learn More About Trauma Therapy?

Hopefully, our look at the different types of trauma has helped you put things into context a little bit. There’s a lot more to learn, though, and we’re here to offer you more information.

Explore our site for more ideas on trauma bonding, finding support, understanding trauma, and much more.