Trauma is a term used to describe the challenging emotional consequences that living through a distressing event can have for an individual. Traumatic events can be difficult to define because the same event may be more traumatic for some people than for others.

However, traumatic events experienced early in life, such as abuse, neglect and disrupted attachment, can often be devastating. Equally challenging can be later life experiences that are out of one’s control, such as a serious accident, being the victim of violence, living through a natural disaster or war, or sudden unexpected loss.

When thoughts and memories of the traumatic event don’t go away or get worse, they may lead to posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)  which can seriously disrupt a person’s ability to regulate their emotions and maintain healthy relationships.

Signs & Symptoms

A traumatic event can be:

  • A recent, single traumatic event (e.g., car crash, violent assault)
  • A single traumatic event that occurred in the past (e.g., a sexual assault, the death of a spouse or child, an accident, living through a natural disaster or a war)
  • A long-term, chronic pattern (e.g., ongoing childhood neglect, sexual or physical abuse).

A person who has experienced a traumatic event might develop either simple or complex PTSD:

  • Experiencing a single traumatic event is most likely to lead to simple PTSD.
  • Complex PTSD tends to result from long-term, chronic trauma and can affect a person’s ability to form healthy, trusting relationships. Complex trauma in children is often referred to as “developmental trauma.”

For more information, visit

Trauma Resources

  • The Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Sourcebook: A Guide to Healing, Recovery, and Growth (Author: Glenn Schiraldi)
  • Reclaiming Your Life from a Traumatic Experience: A Prolonged Exposure Treatment Program Workbook (Authors: Barabara Rothbaum, Edna B. Foa, and Elizabeth A. Hembree)
  • The Body Keeps the Score (Author: Bessel Van Der Kolk) –
  • It Didn’t Start With You (Author: Mark Wolynn) –
  • The Mindful Self Compassion Workbook (Author: Christopher Germer and Dr. Kristin Neff) –
Scroll to Top