What is Trauma?

For an event to be called a traumatic event it has to be an event that develops suddenly and causes fear, anxiety and a feeling of hopelessness in the individual. In addition to these it has to threaten the person’s life, and psychological and physical integrity. The event may not always be experienced by the person himself, it can also be a traumatic event experienced by people in the person’s close environment or it can be an event which the person witnessed.

Amongst the most common events that are regarded as traumatic events we can name war, natural disasters (earthquake, floods etc), accidents, sexual or physical abuse, sudden death, and serious illnesses. As can be seen, a traumatic event can be caused by humans or can be in the form of a natural disaster or an unexpected unforeseen event. There can be situations where the traumatic event systematically repeats itself. Child abuse, experiences during the military service are examples for this. Such situations can have a long-term negative impact on the person.

A traumatic event may not have the same effect on every person. The degree to which the person is affected by the traumatic event depends highly on the person’s past experiences, his perception and beliefs. For example, whilst a person who is rafting as a sport can perceive the activity as enjoyable another person may experience great fear and anxiety and regard the activity as some threatening his existence. For this reason it is more appropriate to assess a trauma on the basis of the effect it has on the person rather than the event itself.