Trauma. What does it include?*

(*trigger warning: domestic violence and sexual abuse)

The statistics on trauma are staggering to say the least. According to the National Counsel 70% of US adults have experienced a traumatic event in their lifetime. That’s more than 200 million people. With numbers like this it’s easy to see that more of us have experiences with trauma than those of us who haven’t.

But what is trauma exactly? Trauma occurs when a person is overwhelmed by events or circumstances and responds with intense fear, horror and helplessness. Extreme stress in these terms can negatively impact a persons ability to cope.

For women it’s especially difficult. Women are victims of violent crimes at extreme rates. In fact, in the US a woman is beaten every 15 seconds. A forcible rape occurs every 6 minutes.

As a society we work very hard to distract ourselves from problems through entertainment and social media but what about those who don’t get the luxury? With the majority of the population having had some kind of trauma exposure there is a greater need to have a larger discussion about trauma.

First, we need to de-stigmatize it. Many people (women especially) don’t come forward after periods of violence because of the fear of not being believed, the fear of retribution, or the guilt and shame that occurs as the victim of violence. In terms of traumatic events themselves, these can sometimes be complex. What if there wasn’t a distinct incident but a constant environment of neglect in childhood. What if it wasn’t a challenging childhood, what if it was an unhealthy relationship with emotional manipulation and gaslighting. Many trauma survivors question the validity of their experiences because it doesn’t “look” like what they think trauma “should” look like.

No matter the event, if you have had experiences that cause overwhelming stress, nightmares, flashbacks, periods of dissociation, anxiety or depression – consider seeking help. You’re not alone.