What is trauma?

Trauma is a deeply distressing or disturbing experience that can affect our ability to cope. We can experience trauma from any situation that feels physically, emotionally or psychologically unsafe or overwhelming to us. It is a subjective experience: an event that is traumatic to one person may not be traumatic to another. Additionally, some people are able to rebound from traumatic experiences while others may experience more lasting effects.

An event may cause trauma if:

It happened unexpectedly

You felt powerless or where unprepared for it

It happened repeatedly

It happened in childhood

Someone intentionally harmed or tried to harm you or others

Sexual, physical or verbal abuse

Neglect or unsafe environment


Serious illness or invasive medical procedures

Physical or Emotional Symptoms:

Shock, feeling numb or detached, disbelief

Difficulty concentrating

Tension, agitation

Mood swings, intense emotions

Sleep disturbances

Startle easily


Racing heart

Headache, stomach upset

Seek help if:

You have trouble functioning at home or work

You are suffering from severe fear, anxiety, or depression

You are unable to form close, satisfying relationships

You are experiencing terrifying memories, nightmares, or flashbacks

You are avoiding more and more things that remind you of the trauma

You are emotionally numb and disconnected from others

You are using alcohol or drugs to feel better