It’s highly unlikely to make it through life without experiencing some form of trauma. According to a World Mental Health survey conducted by the World Health Organization, more than 70% of respondents from 24 countries had traumatic experiences in their lives.

In fact, each person averaged more than three personal traumas during their lifetime.

In this article, we’ll explore the different types of trauma and the wide range of both physical and emotional symptoms they may cause.

What Is Trauma?

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Trauma may be discussed in two specific contexts, physical and psychological. Both physical and psychological trauma can affect anyone at any age or stage of life.

Physical trauma is linked to physical injuries and may or may not cause long-term emotional responses. Psychological trauma is linked to a deeply upsetting experience which may include physical or emotional abuse, a natural disaster, or the loss of a loved one.

Different Types of Trauma

Acute, chronic, complex, and vicarious traumas are the four main kinds of trauma people experience. Just as there are different types of trauma, individuals may respond differently to their traumatic experiences.

Acute Trauma

This trauma is linked to one specific event in a person’s life. Acute trauma can come in the form of an accident, a natural disaster, a physical assault, or even witnessing an assault on someone else.

  • Symptoms of acute trauma may include:
  • Loss of focus
  • Strange behavior
  • Suspiciousness
  • Insomnia
  • Panic attacks or extreme anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Irritation
  • Loss of interest in self-care or grooming
  • Dissociation

Chronic Trauma

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Chronic trauma occurs when an individual is repeatedly exposed to a stressor or dangerous situation. This could include bullying, domestic violence, child abuse, emotional abuse, and even exposure to war.

The symptoms of chronic trauma are more complex than acute traumas and may not show up right away. In fact, it’s not uncommon for symptoms of chronic trauma to show up years after the trauma actually occurs.

Symptoms may include:

  • Flashbacks
  • Rage
  • Mood swings
  • Emotional outbursts
  • Rage
  • Anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches/Body aches
  • Nausea

Complex Trauma

When an individual experiences multiple traumatic events throughout their lifetime, it’s referred to as complex trauma. This trauma tends to be relational as it often occurs during childhood and may include any form of child abuse, neglect, domestic violence within the home, sexual exploitation, or trafficking.

Exposure to any form of violence including community violence, civil unrest, war, or cultural dislocation can also contribute to complex trauma.

Symptoms of complex trauma may include:

  • Feelings of being trapped
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Substance abuse problems
  • Poor sleep patterns
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Dissociative disorder

Vicarious Trauma

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An often-overlooked form of trauma, vicarious trauma occurs when a person experiences trauma symptoms because of their close contact or relationship with a person that actually experienced the trauma.

It’s not uncommon for caregivers and therapists to experience vicarious, or secondary trauma. The symptoms often mirror those of PTSD.

Seek Help for Trauma

If you or someone you love suffers from any of these different types of trauma, there is help available. Find out more about coping with trauma, and learn to live well.

If you’ve enjoyed this article, be sure to investigate more of our health and wellness articles.

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