Traumatic events are shocking and emotional overwhelming situations. It’s natural for people who experience or witness them to have many reactions, including intense fear, horror, numbness, or helplessness. There are many dimensions of trauma, including magnitude, frequency, duration, and controllability. Reactions to traumatic events vary in considerable ways and can range from a relatively mild reaction to a severe and debilitating reaction.
Trauma can occur in either a single incident or repetitive trauma. A single-incident trauma can be defined as an even that occurs unexpectedly, such as an accident, natural disaster, single episode of abuse or assault, witnessing violence, among many others. Complex, or repetitive trauma, is defined as the experience of multiple, chronic, and prolonged, developmentally adverse traumatic events, most often of an interpersonal nature, often within the child’s caregiving system (McCormack & Thomson, 2017). These events may include sexual abuse, physical abuse or neglect, emotional abuse or neglect, or witnessing violence within the family system.
Individuals can experience lifelong difficulties related to self-regulation, relationships, psychological symptoms (such as depression and anxiety), addiction, difficulty with attention and concentration, physical symptoms (i.e., headaches, fatigue), irritability, guilt, shame, feeling sad, feeling disconnected and self-injury due to their early experiences with trauma. Additionally, there are many overlapping symptoms between Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and trauma that can increase the chances of an individual, especially children, to be misdiagnosed with ADHD. These overlapping symptoms include inattentive, irritability, easily distracted, impulsiveness, and difficulty concentrating.
If you or someone you know is struggling with effects of trauma, there is help and resources available, including professional counseling. Please contact (215) 487-1330 or email us at Greenridge@intercommunityaction.org for more information about our counseling services.
Author: Christina Vroman, M.A.
McCormack, L., & Thomson, S. (2017). Complex trauma in childhood, a psychiatric diagnosis in adulthood: Making meaning of a double-edged phenomenon. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, And Policy, 9(2), 156-165. doi:10.1037/tra0000193