Definition of Trauma
The definition of trauma is anything that is ‘deeply distressing or disturbing.’
The definition of trauma is broad because trauma is defined by a person’s subjective experience of it rather than the trauma itself.
‘Psychological trauma is unique to the person who experiences the event and concerns an overwhelm in terms of their ability to integrate their traumatic experience. They may experience a threat to life, sanity or body integrity.’
Therefore, a traumatic situation causes psychological trauma when an individual feels psychologically, physically and emotionally overwhelmed. They might feel like they have an inability to cope with the feelings the trauma has evoked and may have the overwhelming emotion of fear and a stress response which continues after a traumatic event is over.
How is psychological trauma categorised?
Trauma might be experienced because of a one-off event or multiple recurring events where something is overwhelming.
There are two main categories of trauma.
Type 1 trauma
Type 1 trauma refers to single-incident traumas which might be acute, shock related or life threatening. These types of traumas are referred to as big T traumas. Examples might be a car accident, surviving a natural disaster or physical assault.
Type 2 trauma
Type 2 trauma refers to complex or repetitive trauma. Complex trauma may be experienced during development in early childhood. Examples might include psychological or sexual abuse or physical neglect.
We might also experience what are called little t traumas. These types of traumas can be everyday experiences which we might find traumatic. Examples might include moving to a new house, death of a loved one or losing a job.
For a full break down of types of trauma please see out Types of Trauma page.