I want to preface this by saying that I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I’m a mental health advocate and that means that I share my lived experience, my stories, and my struggles. I also do my best to raise awareness about what mental illness looks like. Many people don’t have access to mental health resources or are not taught what trauma looks like. I am a huge advocate for therapy (and affordable and accessible mental health care for everyone!) and this information is only meant to serve as informative.
So let’s talk about examples of trauma.
Trauma is defined as “exposure to an incident or series of events that are emotionally disturbing or life-threatening with lasting adverse effects on the individual’s functioning and mental, physical, social, emotional, and/or spiritual well-being.” – Trauma-Informed Care
Even though the definition of trauma has changed, I’ve noticed so many of us still tell ourselves that what we went through wasn’t bad enough to count.
“Oh, it wasn’t that bad. So-and-so had it worse and they’re fine.” And even if it doesn’t *seem* that bad, or it’s not as bad as what someone else has experienced, that doesn’t invalidate it. Two people can even experience the same traumatic event and have different reactions to it.
So many times, one of the first steps in getting help is acknowledging that you went through a f*cked up situation and you’re not okay. And then we go from there. We look at triggers and we look at our coping skills and then we figure out where the damage from our trauma is affecting our lives (because it is) and we get help.
Your trauma is valid even if it wasn’t as bad as someone else’s. Your trauma is valid even though you thought you were okay at first. Trauma is valid even if the bad thing didn’t necessarily happen to you, but you witnessed it and it had a profound effect on your feelings of safety/security. Your trauma is valid if someone else experienced the same, or similar trauma, and is “okay”.
I wanted to share some examples of things that can trigger trauma or are/can be traumatic.
This list is by no means complete or represents every experience.
Sexual or physical abuse or assault
Child abuse, neglect, and abandonment
Community violence (School shootings, gang violence, fights, or feeling unsafe in your neighborhood or community)
Racial and minority trauma (Racism, homophobia, fatphobia, and ableism are among these)
Medical trauma (Medical trauma is a response to pain, injury, serious [or chronic] illness, medical procedures, and frightening treatment experiences – source)
System-induced trauma (Situations in which organized systems create trauma, including those designed to mitigate trauma – foster care, rape victim interviews, law enforcement, and court actions, juvenile detention facilities, etc. – source)
Violence and crime
Bullying or abuse from peers
Unexpected or traumatic death of a loved one
Prolonged incidents of abuse
Forced displacement (generally refers to refugees and asylum-seekers)
Generational/family trauma (trauma passed down from those who directly experience an incident to subsequent generations – source)
Natural disasters or collective trauma
War and terrorism
I think it’s important to raise awareness about what trauma looks like.
If you’ve experienced trauma – please reach out to a medical professional. They can find the right treatment for you and help you learn how to cope.