Traumatic experiences can cause varied cognitive, emotional, physical, and behavioral changes that impede your healthy functioning. The idea of what a traumatic experience is is individually defined and felt. These occurrences can exist as reactions to a natural disaster, divorce, sexual assault, childhood neglect, accidents, torture, and everything in between. How your mind and body react to these experiences is what determines both your definition of trauma and the extent of your involvement with it. Trauma doesn’t always affect individuals the same way, and some people can rely on their social connections and cope healthily. However, when acute stress reactions and a sense of detachment/numbness become apparent, these inherent coping mechanisms we have are not working effectively enough to guide us through trauma healing.
The integrative nature of trauma, affecting your mind and body, requires a holistic approach towards therapy. Oftentimes trauma is directly linked to more obvious reactions, such as shock or denial. However, traumatic symptoms are much more complex and subtle in many individuals, leading to a winding path towards recovery. Symptoms can be short and long-term, affecting your daily life or even just surfacing during triggering moments. Your brain structure can actually become altered after such an experience and in children, chronic illnesses can even develop. The social isolation associated with trauma also adds to the complexities involved in treatment. The traumatic experience sets you apart from others, whether that is reality or not, and it can be a very marginalizing path to travel without some guidance.
There are several classifications of trauma, which can be problematic in their own right due to the individual nature of such mental health struggles. However, widely speaking, trauma can exist as Complex Trauma, PTSD, and Developmental Trauma. Complex Trauma is more of a cyclical occurrence in which your mind-body reactions to the event or events build upon each other throughout your life experiences. PTSD, or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, is more acute in its nature, resulting in directly distressing cognitive and physical reactions to that specific event (i.e. Combat Stress, car accident, sexual assault). Developmental Trauma Disorder occurs in young children where their developmental needs were not met, thus affecting their coping, attachment, and socioemotional capabilities into later life.