Trigger Warning; this post mentions rape/sexual assault and abuse
You've probably heard the word trauma before; maybe from things like trauma centers for hospitals or about soldiers returning from war. But what does it mean?
For us therapist we have an "official" trauma definition from our big diagnosis manual, the DSM. In there, trauma is defined as "exposure to actual or threatened death, serious injury, or sexual violence." That's a lot to take in! And you might be thinking that there are some things that don't quite fit in this definition, for example where would emotional abuse or some types of neglect fit in?
As a trauma therapist I like to talk about trauma this way; we like to think of our brain as this orderly place where everything is sorted and stored so we can get memories anytime we want. The more though we learn about memory, we are finding this isn't quite true especially with trauma; for whatever reason these memories don't get stored right. Sometimes with these situations, we maybe felt like we were about ready to fight, run or we just froze up. Because these memories weren't stored right, they sometimes come up at a totally wrong time. An example of this may be for someone who was abused, when they see a stranger who looks like their abuser on the street, their heart beats faster, memories start going through their head and they feel like running.
A few things to note about trauma though; first, one thing that is traumatic to one person may not be traumatic to others. Trauma is very subjective which makes it hard for us to make a specific definition. For example, two people may be in the same car accident and one develops trauma symptoms and one doesn't. Second, trauma is super treatable! Since we started researching trauma, we've found a lot of treatments to manage it including types of therapy like EMDR or trauma focused CBT and medication. A lot of people survive through trauma and while they don't forget what happened to them, are able to go on and live happy, fulfilling lives!
Are there other things you want to know about trauma? Feel free to leave them in the comments!