Traumatic experiences often involve a threat to life or safety. It can be caused by a one-time event (i.e. an accident, a natural disaster, a violent attack), or ongoing, relentless stress (i.e. abuse, chronic illness). However, any situation that is emotionally painful and distressing, and that overwhelms a person’s ability to cope, can be considered trauma. An event has a greater risk of leading to emotional or psychological trauma if:
- It happened unexpectedly
- You were unprepared for it
- You felt powerless to prevent it
- It happened repeatedly
- Someone was intentionally cruel
- It happened in childhood
A natural reaction to trauma is a period of grieving. Although it can be painful, it helps if you turn to others for support, take care of yourself, and talk about how you feel. It can take a significant amount of time to recover from a traumatic event, and everyone does so at their own pace. However, if a number of months have passed and your symptoms are not abating, or are getting worse, you may need professional help from a psychologist with experience working with individuals with trauma.