Trauma happens when the emotional impact of an event continues to be experienced each time the memory is experienced. The following questions help frame a traumatic event.
1. Was the event life threatening or perceived to be life threatening?
2. Do you have recurring dreams or intrusive thoughts or images about the event?
3. Do you express distress when you experience something that reminds you of the event?
4. Are your thoughts or your mood suddenly altered, inability to remember important parts of the event or negative beliefs about yourself persist since the event?
5. How much effort is placed in avoiding reminders such as people or places of the event?
6. Feel less interested in activities you once enjoyed or feel detached from others?
7. Are positive emotions difficult to achieve?
8. Are irritable moods and angry outbursts such as verbal or physical aggression happening since the event?
9. Is there difficulty with concentrating, exaggerated startle response or sleep?
10. Does work or school seem harder or impossible since the event?
Examples of traumatic events:
- Car accident
- Witnessing or involvement with lethal weapons
- Adoption (natural families, adoptees, and adoptive families)
- Rape and other aggravated assaults
- Emotional trauma: yelling, screaming, name calling, bullying
These list the main events but any event that changes how you believe about yourself in a negative way is trauma. Trauma distress increases without emotional support. If the distress has been experienced for two or more weeks seek professional therapy.
CAUTION: The recurring thoughts and images may or may not start right after the event. If the dreams, thoughts or images begin to appear even years after the event, it is legitimately traumatizing and needs to be addressed.
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.