What is Trauma
, ,

What is Trauma? [Video]

What is trauma? Trauma is both a psychological and physiological experience. It occurs as a result of a severely distressing event, or a series of such events, that exceed person’s normal capacity to cope. Trauma comes with a shock to person’s nervous system, a sense of overwhelm, loss of emotional and/or physical safety, and the inability to escape that disorganizing situation. Simply put, trauma is an internal and/or external experience of everything becoming undone.

Traumatic experiences can be grouped into three distinct categories.

1. A single traumatic event that can threaten person’s survival or a sense of security.

Examples include:

  • Being exposed to a terrorist attack or school shooting;
  • Becoming a victim of violence, hate crime, sexual assault or rape, or witnessing such event;
  • Experiencing physical trauma or an acute life-threatening medical condition;
  • Surviving a catastrophic event, such as hurricane, flood, or a domestic fire

2. Prolonged exposure to traumatic stress

Examples include:

  • Being in abusive romantic or professional relationship, or ongoing domestic violence;
  • Being bullied or harassed;
  • Living with a chronic medical condition, such as cancer or HIV/AIDS;
  • Being an immigrant or a refugee

3. Developmental trauma (childhood trauma). This type of trauma occurs as a result of ongoing or repeated abuse, neglect, or abandonment by a parent, a family member, or any other significant interpersonal relationship where uneven power dynamic is present. Developmental trauma is not an event: it is a relationship that breaks bonds of attachment and a secure sense of self.

Examples include:

  • Being repeatedly called names, degraded, shamed;
  • Having emotionally unstable parent, or a parent who is an alcoholic or an addict;
  • Being physical or sexually abused;
  • Having basic needs neglected or threatened as a punishment;
  • Growing up LGBTQ in a homophobic, heteronormative family or a community



If you’re interested in seeking treatment for trauma, check out our trauma treatment services.

Elena Ryabtseva, MHC-LP

Elena Ryabtseva, MHC-LP

Psychotherapist at myTherapyNYC
Offers individual and couples counseling in NYC. Specializes in relationship Issues, LGBTQ, Trauma, Intimacy Issues, Body Dissatisfaction, and Eating Disorders
Elena Ryabtseva, MHC-LP

Latest posts by Elena Ryabtseva, MHC-LP (see all)

2 replies
  1. Omar
    Omar says:

    Great job! I especially like that HIV/AIDS was added to the list of potential traumatic experiences because there is so much stigma around it that folks forget about that trauma involved.

  2. Zach
    Zach says:

    Thanks so much for your outstanding Webinar, Elena! It has been helping several of my clients to understand the various categories of trauma.


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *