The symptoms of trauma are so broad and far reaching that they may be linked to a wide range of mental and physical health concerns. Issues such as anxiety, depression, substance dependence, chronic pain, and IBS are examples of presenting problems that often have roots in traumatic experience(s).
Due to the breadth of symptoms related to traumatic experience(s) it is challenging to provide a single definition that covers our current understanding. However, as we first engage with this topic a few broad definitions may help to guide our efforts to learn more and better understand ourselves and others.
Acute Trauma: Results from a one time incident such as a car crash or robbery.
Chronic Trauma: Results from repeated and prolonged incidences such as ongoing multiple instances of physical or emotional abuse.
Complex Trauma: Results from a variety of experiences over time that may not be as pronounced as classic examples of trauma. This may include patterns of neglect, boundary violations, or experiencing a lack of consistency and stability in one’s primary care-takers or parents. For example, being raised by a primary caretaker or parent(s) that is substance dependent and/or struggling with their own mental health concerns.
Comprehensive and effective psychotherapeutic care should include an understanding of trauma and trauma types. Further, this understanding is of benefit to many as a means of improving levels of self-awareness and supporting efforts to better understand and address chronic issues that last a lifetime when not effectively addressed.
Improving our understanding of the above helps to best identify the underlying factors that contribute to maladaptive patterns that impact our individual and collective well-being (some examples include: substance dependence, co-dependence, OCD, and anxiety). By broadening our understanding of trauma, we are able to move beyond symptom alleviation and toward actual healing of the psychic injuries often at the core of acute and chronic presenting problems.