A question I am commonly asked in my clinical practice at the VA and in private practice is “Is my experience considered trauma?” Most individuals are skilled at describing their symptoms and problems.  However, unless experienced with psychotherapy or educated at some point by a professional, most people are unaware of what constitutes a trauma/traumatic experience.  Further, the experience(s) may be the driving force behind their problems. Most individuals who have experienced a trauma do not seek help because they are unaware that 1) their problems are related to a traumatic event; and 2) that there are evidence-based (meaning, treatments that are highly effective) therapies available that can help to significantly reduce or eliminate trauma-induced psychological problems.

Trauma in and of itself, relies on a person’s subjective experience of an event and to what extent they believe their life, bodily integrity, or psychological well-being was threatened. If you are even asking the question “Is my experience considered a trauma?” please read on.   It may be worth your time to have an evaluation conducted by a trained trauma specialist (such as Tampa Therapy) if you are experiencing:

  • Intrusive (i.e., unwanted and repeated) memories of the bothersome/stressful event(s), and likely attempts to distract yourself from thinking about it
  • Dream or nightmares about the event(s), or those possessing similar themes
  • Feeling upset when reminded of the event(s)
  • Physiological response when reminded of the event(s) – (e.g., heart racing, sweating, difficulty breathing)
  • Avoiding people, places, conversations, activities, objects, or situation that remind of the event(s)
  • Difficulty remembering parts of the experience
  • Overly negative beliefs about yourself, others, and the world (and especially in the areas of safety, trust, intimacy, power/control, and esteem)
  • Blaming yourself or someone else for what happened
  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities, hobbies
  • Feeling emotionally distant for others or isolating yourself from others
  • Difficulty feeling good, positive emotions (e.g., love, joy)
  • Easily irritable, and perhaps anger outbursts or acts of aggression
  • Risk-taking behaviors that could cause you harm
  • Feeling as though you are always “on guard” and super-aware of your surroundings
  • Easily startled and perhaps jumpy
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep

And have ever had one of the following happen (please note, this list is not inclusive of all possibilities, but includes more common traumatic experiences):

  • Were in a situation where your life or integrity was substantially threatened
  • Being in or witnessing a car, plane, boat, train, etc. accident
  • Learning the details of a sudden, unexpected violent death of someone close (e.g., suicide, accident, homicide)
  • Serious injury (e.g., from accident, animal attack), major surgery (e.g., heart surgery), or life-threatening illness (e.g., cancer)
  • Victim of bullying
  • Employment as law enforcement officer, paramedic, firefighter, etc. with repeated exposure to shocking and perhaps, horrific, situations
  • On-the-job accident (e.g., chemical spill, needle stick, etc.)
  • Survived a natural disaster (e.g., hurricane, tornado, flood, earthquake, etc.)
  • Witnessed an act of violence (e.g., robbery, rape, homicide, etc.)
  • Physical, verbal, emotional, or sexual abuse by a caregiver
  • Physical, sexual, emotional, or verbal abuse that occurred during adulthood
  • Domestic or dating violence
  • Community violence (shooting, mugging, burglary, homicide, bullying, physical or sexual assault)
  • Exposure to combat situations, war, or political violence (e.g., terrorism, refugee, etc.)
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