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Understanding Trauma

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Written by, Barbara Wormington

Barbara is currently working under Kayce Bragg to obtain her professional licensure in the state of Minnesota.

Barbara Wormington MEd, MS, BS is a counseling intern under supervision of Kayce Bragg. She was a public school educator for fifteen years in Missouri and currently resides in Minnesota. She is a divorced mom of a twelve year old queer kiddo who through lots of love and support is thriving. Barbara loves seeing clients of all ages, but especially kids between the ages of 9-18. In her free time she loves being outside with her rescue pup, Norah.

Understanding Trauma

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What is trauma and why is it important?


Trauma seems to be a buzz word lately in the world of mental health, or maybe even in your personal world. It seems like a word that might be getting thrown around to describe a multitude of things which can in turn create vagueness and misunderstanding. To clear that up and create a more concise understanding of this ever growing, ever changing subject here are some important facts regarding what exactly trauma is and why it is important to understand.

According to the American Psychological Association 2023, 

Trauma is an emotional response to a terrible event like an accident, rape, or natural disaster. Immediately after the event, shock and denial are typical. Longer term reactions include unpredictable emotions, flashbacks, strained relationships, and even physical symptoms like headaches or nausea.

The National Council for Wellbeing estimates that approximately 70% of American citizens are dealing with a trauma or have experienced a trauma. That is nearly three quarters of everyone you come in contact with daily. This means it is extremely important to familiarize yourself with what trauma is, how to spot it, and what to do about it as it is very likely you will come in contact, work with, or be a friend or family member to someone experiencing trauma. 

Types of Trauma


According to Very Well Mind, 2023, there are two main types of trauma:

    • Acute emotional trauma is the emotional response that happens during and shortly after a single distressing event.
    • Chronic emotional trauma is a long-term emotional response a person experiences from prolonged or repeated distressing events that span months or years. Additionally, complex emotional trauma is the emotional response associated with multiple different distressing events that may or may not be intertwined.

Some examples of traumatic events might be: 

  • Child abuse or neglect
  • Bullying
  • Physical abuse
  • Domestic violence
  • Community violence
  • Substance abuse
  • Verbal abuse
  • Accidents
  • Medical issues
  • Natural disasters
  • Partner violence
  • Terrorism
  • Traumatic grief
  • Generational trauma

It is important to note that the medical community and mental health community is continuing research on trauma and its effects. Many definitions, examples, and lived experiences are being studied currently in this area and it is always changing and evolving. It is also important to note that in that research, may are finding that trauma responses can be linked in children with trauma experiences from things like divorce, moving, or even school related issues.

Effects of Trauma


Effects of trauma can look like any of the following but are not limited, each individual and how they experience life after a trauma can be as unique as a fingerprint. You might also hear the words “trauma response” as a way to categorize behaviors of someone who has experienced trauma and how they deal with it. 

  • Feeling sad, hopeless, or irritable 
  • Body aches or pains
  • Higher heart rate
  • Tense muscles
  • Startling easily
  • Nightmares
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Self injury
  • Excessive alertness
  • Dissociation
  • Changes in worldview
  • Denial of trauma or events
  • Guilt, shame, and blame
  • Heightened depression or anxiety
  • Not wanting to do or enjoy doing fun things
  • Showing changes in sleep patterns – sleeping a lot more or a lot less than normal
  • avoidance
  • Showing changes in energy – being tired and sluggish or tense and restless a lot of the time
  • Feeling worthless, useless, or guilty

How to Help


Maybe now with this new information you are understanding more about yourself or something you have been through OR  maybe you now know that someone close to you might be experiencing the effects of a trauma or going through a trauma response. Understanding what trauma is and its prevalence in our society today is the first step in helping yourself or someone you care about. As you consider your part in helping yourself or someone you know who is going through this, it is extremely important to validate and listen first. Listen to your instincts and your gut and reach out. Listen for understanding and with empathy to what they are going through. Dealing with trauma and healing can be a huge undertaking either for yourself or someone else. Seeking out professionals that deal exclusively with people in the aftermath of a trauma is the next crucial step. Counseling resources are always available at Synergy eTherapy, and the National Crisis Hotline is 988.

Below are some other resources listed for you or anyone you might know. 

Above all, remember that the majority of the population is dealing with some sort of trauma. You are not alone in dealing with this or helping someone through something like this and you are doing a great job coping or supporting someone who might be coping. Being considerate of others needs and developing coping skills for them that are healthy while also taking care of yourself is a huge job.   Make sure you are taking care of yourself first before helping others and self care is important for all trauma survivors. as well.


Trauma Resources

“This website’s mission is to increase understanding of complex trauma:

  • what it is,
  • what it does to people, and
  • ways to reverse its effects on mind, body and spirit. was created by people whose professional backgrounds in the trauma field have been informed by our lived experiences. Our goal was to establish the most comprehensive repository of information and resources on complex traumatic stress, and to make it comprehensible to the public and professional alike.”

 “There is an epidemic of personal and social issues including addiction, chronic disease, anxiety, depression, PTSD and more whose roots can all be traced to trauma, adverse childhood experiences, chronic stress, and ultimately nervous system dysregulation.

In the last number of years there has been groundbreaking research in neuroscience that has fundamentally changed our understanding of how trauma can impact individuals psychologically, physiologically, emotionally, and socially. From this, several new and highly effective treatment modalities have been developed at the clinical level to build resilience and support the healing of individuals struggling with chronic symptoms resulting from unresolved trauma.

The Trauma Foundation is focused on making this work more accessible by developing and directly supporting programs, initiatives, and research focused on trauma recover.”

“Renowned trauma expert Bessel van der Kolk has spent over three decades working with survivors. In The Body Keeps the Score, he transforms our understanding of traumatic stress, revealing how it literally rearranges the brain’s wiring—specifically areas dedicated to pleasure, engagement, control, and trust.”

-On the Body Keeps Score

Find on Amazon here


APA. (2023). Trauma. American Psychological Association.

Olivine, A. (2022, January 4). What is trauma? types, stages, and treatment. Verywell Health.

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