“Trauma is an event where your life (or bodily integrity) or the life (or bodily integrity) of someone around you is threatened - it overwhelms your ability to cope,” said Sheela Raja, a clinical psychologist and assistant professor who has an upcoming book on trauma called “Overcoming Trauma and PTSD: A Workbook Integrating Skills From ACT, DBT, and CBT”.
“In terms of mental health, traumatic events are related to depression, anxiety, substance abuse and post-traumatic stress disorder,” Raja added.
“Trauma interferes with our belief system about how the world works. We may think that the world is predicable, safe, etc. Traumatic events cause these beliefs to be shattered.”
Not everyone suffers from trauma in the same way, and some people are more resilient than others after a traumatic event or events.
“There are many ‘protective’ factors that buffer people from the psychological effects of trauma,” Raja said.
“These include having a strong social support system, having no prior trauma history (multiple traumas make it more difficult to heal), and having a strong sense of meaning and purpose in life.”
Women can suffer from trauma differently than men sometimes, and they might go through certain traumatic events more often.
“In terms of rates of traumatic events, women are much more likely to be the victims of sexual assault and domestic violence,” Raja said.
“These are crimes that are perpetrated at the hands of intimate partners. So healing has to do with learning to trust, finding safety, and focusing on relationships. This can be different from the healing that needs to take place in other types of trauma (e.g., stranger assaults, natural disasters, street crime).”
It’s imperative for people to be supportive of those who have been through traumatic events -- this can help the recovery process.
“The way we treat people as they are healing is very, very important,” Raja said.
“We should be careful not to blame victims - this can ‘re-traumatize’ them, and even make their mental health symptoms worse.”