Most people experience a trauma at some point in their lives. A traumatic event is a shocking, scary, or dangerous experience that can affect us emotionally and physically. People can experience or witness traumatic events, such as natural disasters (such as earthquakes and floods), acts of violence or abuse (such as physical or sexual assault, abuse, terrorist attacks) and accidents (such as car crashes). Trauma is the combination of three E’s – Event, Experience, and Effect – an event, series of events, or a set of circumstances experienced by a person that is experienced by this individual as physically or emotionally harmful or life threatening and has lasting negative effects.
Individuals respond to traumatic events in various ways: most people respond right away; others have delayed effects. Reactions can be brief or prolonged. Trauma, including one-time, multiple, or long-lasting repeated events, affect people differently and their reactions are affected by the individual’s age, gender, life experiences, support system, their culture, and their perception of the reaction of others.
Traumatic stress tends to elicit two emotional strong responses: feeling too much (overwhelmed) or too little (numb) emotions. Those people who experience psychological distress after a traumatic or stressful event tend to feel unhappy or unable to feel pleasure, sometimes show anger and aggression, or detachment. There is a relationship among different traumas. Sadly, multiple studies show that people who experienced interpersonal traumas, especially true for those who experienced childhood abuse, are more likely to be victimized again as adults. The psychosocial environment and biological resistance affect a child’s resilience and ability to adapt in the future.
For most people, their reactions to traumatic events lessen with time. For some people however, the intense symptoms last or linger and do not go away. If the reactions persist and interfere with the person’s normal life, psychological interventions are helpful.