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"Trauma" - Defined

With most of my clients I discuss the word "trauma" and I ask them: when you think of the word 'Trauma' what comes to mind?

More often than not people respond with answers such as: rape, car accident, robbed at gun point, natural disaster or war. But... did you know that trauma can happen in small forms as well?

Trauma can be defined as events that are emotionally shocking and can cause mild to severe disruptions in one's life. There are two main categories of trauma that most professionals refer to as, "Big T" and "Little T".

Big T's: are those trauma events in our lives that are PTSD diagnosable. They are the more serious events that include injury, long-significant history of abuse, sexual violence or other life events that are extremely distressing. Now days this can include anything from: school shootings, terrorist attacks or even witnessing a traumatic accident.

Usually, avoidance is a leading symptom that shows up in those that experience this type of trauma. This person does not want to talk about the event, let alone think about it. More often than not their symptoms are showing up in their daily responsibilities and can make it hard for that person to function. Often times the triggers for these events are intense and unavoidable. As much as a person wants to repress these feelings and emotions, it is often impossible to just simply avoid. Most people feel hopeless with their symptoms and have feelings that they will never overcome this.

Little T's: can still be highly distressing events that affect a person but they may not meet the PTSD diagnosis. These events can include non-life threatening events, divorce, bullying, harassment, loss of a job, a death, financial difficulty or conflict amongst family members. How people handle the stress or symptoms of their little "t" can vary pretty differently from person to person.

Experiencing little "t's" repeatedly throughout one's life can affect our brain patterns and development. Which leads to creating negative associations within our cognitive process. Thus resulting in negative ways we feel about ourselves and the beliefs we have about our worth. These feelings or beliefs can be present through most of our lives, some of which we are unaware of, until, therapy or having some other breaking point where we are able to look at our maladaptive patterns and behaviors.

Research has shown that when a person experiences trauma certain regions (the amygdala, the medial prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus ) of the brain can change. These changes can cause those maladaptive patterns and behaviors we form later in our lives. Although, these changes are critical, they do not have to be permanent. If a person can work through their trauma through therapy, meditation or other healthy, processing techniques it is said that the changes in our brain can improve over time.

Working through a person's trauma, despite the size, is an area that I specialize in. Using, a trauma based therapeutic method (EMDR), is one of the best ways a person can overcome the trauma(s) in their life. Although, it is a lot of hard work the results are said to be everlasting and a person can then break free from the ties that trauma has over someone.

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