As we think about trauma, we need to have accurate definitions of trauma. Here are some different terms were going to be talking about in the next few blog posts.
Trauma is a robust emotional response to a distressing event, such as war, an accident, the unexpected loss of a loved one, or abuse. Trauma can continue to cause both emotional and physical symptoms for many years after the event has concluded.
In the diagnostic and statistical manual, the DSM-V, trauma is defined as exposure to actual or threatening death, serious injury, or sexual violence in one or more of these four ways:
- You are directly experiencing the event.
- You are witnessing the incident occurring to others.
- You are learning that such an event has happened to a close family member or friend.
- You are experiencing repeated or extreme exposure to such activities such as first responders.
Different people have different beliefs about life and what happens, and they have various risk factors. For some, the traumatic experience was unexpected or it could have occurred during childhood. Some victims have experienced past traumas in addition to the new trauma.
In some cases, the encounter happened repeatedly or over a prolonged period. In other cases the trauma was a single event. Sometimes the victim is dealing with other significant stressors, unrelated to the trauma. Regardless of the specifics, there are feelings of helplessness for all victims during the traumatic experience.
Having accurate definitions of trauma is important to those who have suffered trauma and their loved ones. It is important to understand what has happened as you work towards your healing.