- Everyone can experience psychological trauma, many people have.
- Trauma can be thought of as how an individual or group is impacted by distressing events or circumstances.
- Research on trauma and trauma treatments has expanded over the last few years – we are learning a lot, treatment is available, and there is still much more to learn about how to help people heal.
As “therapy-speak” enters mainstream conversations, social media platforms, news articles, and more, it is important to stay aware and be curious about the complex meanings and impact of our words. One such word is Trauma. Perhaps someone has apologized to you recently for “trauma dumping”; maybe someone has casually remarked “after that, we are all trauma-bonded.” What does the word trauma really mean, and what implications does its casual foray into mainstream conversation have for the mental health field?
This blog post will seek to answer the first – and fairly complex – question: what does trauma really mean?
The etymology (history of language) of “trauma” can be traced back to the Greek traumatikos, which is translated to “pertaining to a wound.” Importantly, trauma is not a synonym for “wound,” but rather in relation to a wound. In other words, trauma can be thought of as how an individual or group is impacted by and responds to distressing events or circumstances.
There is no conclusive list of what counts as trauma. Individual trauma results from an event, a series of events or a set of circumstances that are distressing to the body and/or mind. Groups can experience trauma – for example, intergenerational trauma or racism or transphobia – wherein there might not be one specific event or circumstance, but rather a structural force or a collective memory from which the trauma is derived. What is traumatic for one person may not always be traumatic for another. Trauma deals with difficult situations that “feel unmanageable.”
Everyone can experience psychological trauma. But not everyone deals with trauma in the same way. While there is a clinical diagnosis for those who are living with trauma – Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD – a clinical diagnosis is not required in order for trauma to be real or validated.
There is no pill or miracle treatment for trauma, but there are many dedicated researchers who are working to uncover innovative pathways for healing. Mindfulness and somatic therapies are commonly known evidence-based approaches to trauma work, and therapeutic usages for Ketamine and Psilocybin are also being researched and put into practice for those struggling with PTSD.
Having trauma does not mean that you are broken. It means that you have experienced distress in your lifetime and are still working to process and integrate your memory in a meaningful and empowered way.
Many therapists have an interest in helping people who have experienced trauma. Therapeutic relationships can be another way to make sense of the difficult traumatic events and work towards improving how one understands and deals with them.