- Trish Stephens
The traditional definition of trauma as defined by the DSM-5 limits
trauma to being an actual or threatened physical experience of death,
serious injury, or sexual violence. While this definition can certainly be useful, it excludes a form a trauma that has been well documented
and researched: Psychological trauma. Psychological trauma can be defined as ANY event which is extremely upsetting, temporarily overwhelms an individual’s internal resources, and produces lasting psychological symptoms; this is the type of trauma that most individuals experience.
Examples of trauma include either the direct experience
or witnessing of:
Death (accidental, violent, prolonged suffering).
Child abuse (sexual and/or physical).
Rape (non-consensual oral, anal, or vaginal sexual penetration with a body part or object).
Sexual assault (any forced sexual contact, including rape).
Stranger physical assault (muggings, beatings, stabbings, shootings, or any other violent act from a stranger).
Intimate partner violence/spousal abuse (physically or sexually assaultive behaviour by an individual against another in an intimate relationship). This Includes: humiliation, degradation, extreme criticism, stalking, and/or threats of violence towards children, pets, and/or property.
Intergenerational trauma (trauma that is transferred from the first generation of trauma survivors to the second and further generations).
War (includes death, disfigurement, physical injury, torture, confinement, extreme physical depravation, and/or the involvement in injuring or killing others).
Transportation accidents (vehicle, airplane, train, or maritime).
Natural disasters (floods, fires, earthquakes, tornadoes, etc.).
Fire and burns (house fires, burns from industrial fires, fireworks, intentional burns caused by others).
It is critical to note that human reactions to trauma are NORMAL
reactions to ABNORMAL events. Some of these reactions may include:
Shock, denial, or disbelief
Feeling disconnected or numb
Insomnia and/or nightmares
Being startled easily
Anxiety and fear
Grief, shame, or guilt
Anger, irritability, or mood swings
Withdrawal from others
Feeling sad or hopeless
Aches, pains, or muscle tension
Trauma is a complex experience, one which literally changes the
brain’s chemistry and the body’s functioning. Although the experience
of trauma results in one of the most difficult scenarios to reach out
and seek help from, it is crucial to know that you CAN overcome the distress and suffering. With the help of an EMDR trained therapist, you can eventually begin to live the life you envision.