What Is Trauma?? Definition, Causes, and Symptoms

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Have you ever experienced or witnessed something so distressing that it shook the core of your being? Although that time has passed, do you feel like you are still reliving that painful moment every day? 

Are you consumed with fear, guilt, or shame? Are you afraid that danger will overtake you at any moment? Have your childhood events altered your view of life, and you cannot seem to overcome the hurt living on the inside of you? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you might have had a traumatic encounter at some point in your life.


The word Trauma originated from Greek and, at its core, means wound. There are primarily two definitions of trauma- The medical definition and the psychological definition.

Medically defined, Trauma refers to a wound or physical injury. Typically, in a medical context, Trauma refers to a bodily injury, such as a fracture on the head caused by a car accident. 

Psychological Trauma (which we are referencing on this blog) is an emotional wound and response to a disturbing or overwhelming event. The traumatic experience affects one’s ability to cope, causes severe distress and feelings of hopelessness. Trauma can also lead to emotions of powerlessness, being on edge, and damage one’s sense of self.


According to the  National Council For Behavioral Health, 70% of adults in the U.S. have experienced traumatic events at least once in their lives. That’s 223.4 million people.

Common (but not all) causes of Trauma include:

  • childhood abuse or neglect
  • natural Disasters
  • bullying
  • humiliation
  • death of a loved one
  • death of a pet
  • witnessing violence
  • loss of a job
  • a breakup/divorce
  • and countless other situations.

On this blog, we will primarily focus on childhood traumatic experiences and their psychological, emotional, social, and physiological effects on adult survivors. 


Research studies have found that Trauma symptoms vary from person to person and can appear immediately after the traumatic experience or develop years later.

While the indications below are widespread symptoms of Trauma, it is not limited to the symptoms listed below. You may experience one or more of these symptoms or not share any of these symptoms.

The best way to know if your symptoms result from traumatic exposure or a trauma disorder is to seek help and guidance from a professional.

The list below comes directly from HelpGuide.org’s website. 

Emotional & psychological symptoms:

  • Shock, denial, or disbelief
  • Confusion, difficulty concentrating
  • Anger, irritability, mood swings
  • Anxiety and fear
  • Guilt, shame, self-blame
  • Withdrawing from others
  • Feeling sad or hopeless
  • Feeling disconnected or numb

Physical symptoms:

  • Insomnia or nightmares
  • Fatigue
  • Being startled easily
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Racing heartbeat
  • Edginess and agitation
  • Aches and pains
  • Muscle tension

“While exposure to traumatic situations affects people differently, it is not the circumstances that determine whether an event is traumatic, but our experience of that event. The more frightened and helpless you feel, the more likely you are to be traumatized” (HelpGuide.org). 

We all react to Trauma differently, so there is no right or wrong way to think, feel, or respond to a distressing event.  

Here’s An Example:

Two siblings who witness domestic violence growing up in the same household.

Sibling A may not cope with the exposure to violence well and become traumatized, leading him to experience nightmares, shock, and fight or flight response, i.e., the body’s response to harm and danger, alerting a person to either run away or fight.

Sibling A may grow up isolating themself, suffer from survivor’s shame, and struggle with Anxiety.

While these are the typical responses to Trauma, Sibling A is highly likely to develop a trauma disorder if these responses go unaddressed or unhealed.

However, Sibling B may witness the same event. Yet, Sibling B does not get affected as severely as Sibling A.

Sibling B does not become severely distressed and can move beyond the traumatic experience. Suppose Sibling B can cope with witnessing domestic violence. In this case, Trauma from this experience will most likely not dominate Sibling B’s psyche. Therefore, Sibling B is less likely to develop a trauma disorder from that experience.


Traumatic events affect each person differently. An event that is super alarming to one person may not cause disturbance to another person. However, it does minimize the effects a traumatic encounter has on the person experiencing it. The crucial thing is to understand how an experience has impacted our lives and determine whether that experience still affects how we think, behave, and feel. 

“While there are no objective criteria to evaluate which events will cause post-trauma symptoms, circumstances typically involve the loss of control, betrayal, abuse of power, helplessness, pain, confusion and/or loss.” –ILS Integrated Listening Systems.  

The thing to remember is to be compassionate, understanding, and non-judgmental to yourself as you seek to learn, heal, and overcome the stings of trauma. 

Blessings to you,

Ready to flourish beyond Trauma? Subscribe to my newsletter to receive free access to trauma healing blogs!







Disclaimer: The information I offer on this website is based on my life and personal experiences. By reading my blogs, and watching my videos, you acknowledge that I am not a licensed counselor, psychologist, medical doctor, or health care professional and the information that I provide do not replace the care of counselors, psychologists, doctors or other healthcare professionals. Shyteria Empowers is in no way to be interpreted or replaced as a form of psychological counseling, psychotherapy, mental health counseling, or any other type of psychotherapy or medical advice. and cannot guarantee the outcome of my efforts and/or recommendations on my blog or videos and my comments on all spoken topics are expressions of opinion only.

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Wellness speaker and writer with over ten years of personal experience in healing and researching childhood traumas.

Survivor | Riser | and Sis – are my titles. Helping resilient souls rise through past experiences – is my life’s mission.

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