Three Types of Emotional Trauma

If you’re here to figure out what kind of trauma you might have, the first thing you should know is that nothing in any of our articles is enough to diagnose yourself. Research is great! Consuming as much knowledge as you can is a good idea. The only thing that can really confirm and process what kind of trauma you might have is a discussion with a licensed mental healthcare professional. That said, here’s what we know about different types of trauma.

What to Know About the Types of Trauma

What are the different kinds of trauma?

Professionals seem to think about trauma in a number of ways:

Types of Traumatic Events

Traumatic events are the experiences that cause someone to be traumatized. For example, you may have heard of sexual trauma or religious trauma, but those terms are mostly specifying where a person’s trauma comes from. Every person’s trauma manifests in unique ways, no matter what their traumatic event was, and every kind of traumatic event can lead to PTSD or other mental health difficulties.

Examples of traumatic events include but aren’t limited to:

  • Any kind of abuse
  • Child neglect
  • Bullying
  • Domestic violence
  • Violence in the community
  • Natural disasters
  • Medical trauma
  • Sexual assault
  • Sex trafficking
  • Substance abuse
  • Intimate partner violence
  • Accidents
  • War
  • Refugee trauma
  • Terrorism
  • Intergenerational Trauma
  • Collective trauma
  • Racial trauma
  • Financial trauma
  • Traumatic grief
  • Betrayal trauma
  • Acoustic trauma
  • Rape trauma
  • Military trauma
  • Mass shooting trauma
  • Workplace trauma
  • Birth trauma
  • Law Enforcement trauma
  • Incarceration trauma
  • Religious Trauma
  • Covid-19 trauma
  • Vicarious/secondary trauma

It’s also important to remember that you can experience a traumatic event without developing the symptoms of emotional trauma or PTSD. Everyone’s mind and body process differently. If you do go through a traumatic event, however, it’s always a good idea to seek guidance and support.

Categories of trauma:

  • Physical trauma is the bodily injury that may be caused due to a traumatic event. For instance, if your school bully or a physically abusive parent hurts you, the resulting scrapes, bruises, or broken bones would be your physical trauma.
  • Emotional trauma is the psychological impact left on your heart and mind due to a traumatic event.

Three categories of emotional trauma:

While physical trauma can be defined as the bodily harm or injury caused by a traumatic event, there are three types of emotional trauma:

  • Acute Trauma is a person’s response during and shortly after the traumatic event.
  • Chronic Trauma is a person’s long-term response after prolonged traumatic exposure over time
  • Complex Trauma is a person’s response to multiple traumatic events, related or unrelated to each other, though some consider complex trauma to fall under the umbrella of chronic trauma.

How to Overcome Trauma

If you suspect you’re dealing with any kind of trauma, you probably want to know if it’s even possible to heal. How do you work through trauma? It’s hard to imagine that you won’t feel broken forever. But there is hope. These days, there are some very effective methods for treating trauma and teaching your brain and body to feel safe and secure again. If you want to start your own healing journey, here are some steps and info:

  • Know the symptoms. The symptoms of emotional trauma can mimic a lot of other mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression. You may notice intrusive thoughts and memories, trouble concentrating, mood swings, fatigue, or trouble sleeping. You might also feel less interested in activities or relationships that used to bring you joy and comfort. It looks different for everyone, so be patient with yourself. When in doubt, it’s best to get your questions answered. 
  • Confirm your diagnosis. A licensed therapist can help you determine whether or not your suspicions are true and guide you toward the appropriate next steps for healing. They may recommend lifestyle changes that support your mind and body as those heal, or they may recommend discussing some of your symptoms with a doctor who can decide if medication might help. It’s very important not to try and self-diagnose or self-medicate.
  • Seek treatment in trauma therapy. What is trauma therapy? It’s counseling with a licensed therapist who is knowledgeable in the most effective treatments for trauma. Do your research and find someone who’s trained in various trauma therapies.
  • Rest. You’ve been through a lot. Give yourself a well-deserved break.

Types of Trauma Therapies

  • EMDR, short for “eye movement desensitization and reprocessing,” which “uses rhythmic left-right (bilateral) stimulation to help people recover from trauma or other distressing life experiences.”
  • Prolonged exposure (PE)
  • Cognitive processing therapy (CPT), challenging perspective and perception of the traumatic event and beliefs/thoughts formed after.
  • Trauma-focused cognitive behavior therapy (TF-CBT)

NOTE FROM VeryWellMind:

Not All Therapists Are Trauma-Informed.

Most therapists are exposed to trauma work in their training, but not all therapists are trauma-informed.

When finding a therapist and determining if their trauma training is a fit to your unique needs, you might ask the following questions:

  • What training have you done in trauma-informed care?
  • Do you consider yourself trauma-informed, and what does this mean to you?
  • What is your approach to therapy with clients with trauma history?
  • What kinds of clients do you work with, or what kinds of trauma do you work with?
  • Are there any types of trauma that you do not feel comfortable or competent to work with?
  • At what pace do you go when treating trauma?

“What Is Trauma-Informed Therapy?”
By Amy Marschall, PsyD 
Medically reviewed by Daniel B. Block, MD

With an informed professional, trauma therapy can help you reduce fear and avoidance, improve your coping skills, help you learn to trust others again, empower you to challenge problematic beliefs that came from the trauma, and give you validation if you’ve ever been blamed for or questioned about the truth of your trauma.

Can My Faith Help Me Heal from Trauma?

“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” (2 Corinthians 4: 8-9,16)

If you are dealing with trauma, you may be heartbroken, but you survived. You may feel broken, but you are still alive. Despite everything you’ve been through, you have a future full of potential. The fact that your brain and body aren’t able to function the way they used to is proof that they have done their job: to protect you from further harm, just as God created them to. 

Your job now is to have faith that your brain, body, and soul will do the job of healing, which God also gave them the ability to do. You will need support along the way, so you must also trust the experts and resources that God has made available to you. He has not abandoned you, and in fact, He has given you the tools for renewal. One of His names in the Bible is Healer. You are healing bit by bit even as you read this.

If you’re looking for mental health resources or just need someone to talk to, please reach out to one of our Hope Coaches today. You are never alone, and we always listen without judgment.

Some relationships leave us with very deep scars from trauma. Click here for help and resources for PTSD from an abusive relationship.

TheHopeLine Team
For over 30 years, TheHopeLine has been helping students and young adults in crisis. Our team is made up of writers and mental health professionals who care deeply about helping others.
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