10 Common Types of Trauma: Effective Ways to Overcome Them

Trauma is our body’s response to a disturbing or distressing event. A person who undergoes trauma can go through a wide range of emotions immediately and in the long term.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) survey, at least one-third of the total population surveyed across 26 countries experienced trauma at some point. These numbers are just cases, and the actual number could be much higher than this.

While there are no proper criteria based on what will cause the different types of trauma, the most common types of trauma1 are caused by:

  • Pain,
  • Loss,
  • Betrayal,
  • Abuse of power,
  • Helplessness,
  • Confusion.

These events, personal or not, can affect the person profoundly and entirely alter their persona. The symptoms resulting from traumatic events may differ from person to person, depending upon the different types of trauma they experience.

Common Trauma Symptoms 

  • Nightmares,
  • Emotional outbursts,
  • Loss of hunger,
  • Difficulty with relationships,
  • Lack of trust
  • Insomnia.

Causes Of Trauma

Some of the potential causes that result in the different types of trauma include:

  • Emotional, sexual, or physical abuse
  • Bullying
  • Assault
  • War, genocide, mass killings
  • Natural disasters
  • Loss of loved ones
  • Child Birth
  • Illness or diseases

10 Types of Trauma

Individuals may react differently to different types of trauma. Some of the common types of trauma classified by experts include:

1. Developmental Trauma

Developmental trauma2 is one of the most common ones among the other types of trauma experienced by individuals. Developmental trauma includes a wide range of unfortunate events in childhood, like physical, sexual, emotional, assault, abandonment, rejection, betrayal, or death.

This mostly interferes with developing the child’s persona and prevents them from a healthy relationship with others. Individuals with developmental trauma also have the risk of developing other mental conditions, including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Research studies have identified that children are the most vulnerable to trauma as their brains are still developing. Children develop an increased state of stress while experiencing any awful event, leading their bodies to release hormones related to fear and stress.

Developmental trauma, on the whole, disrupts the child’s brain development3 and can significantly cause long-term effects.

2. Vicarious Trauma

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Vicarious trauma is also known as secondary trauma. It is different from the other types of trauma because, in this case, trauma occurs to individuals when they speak or listen to someone who has experienced trauma firsthand.

The individuals listening can sometimes absorb disturbing aspects of the traumatic event into their minds, eventually harming their mental health.

3. Acute Trauma

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Acute trauma results from one disturbing event, an accident, abuse, or natural disaster. That terrible event creates a lasting impression on the person’s mind. It causes harm to them, even to the extent of threatening their emotional and physical well-being, and creates a whole change in the person’s behavioural pattern.

Some common symptoms of acute trauma4 include panic, anxiety, confused state of mind, irritation, irregular and inadequate sleep, lack of focus, and the inability to trust anyone.

4. Complex Trauma

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Image from Unsplash

Individuals with complex trauma experience the consequences of trauma like family issues, physical or sexual abuse, violence, and so much more.

Individuals with complex trauma are mostly in survival mode and develop mean world syndrome,’ where they only have negative thoughts and beliefs about the world and themselves.

People with complex post-traumatic stress disorder are also very different from regular PTSD. They often feel overwhelmed by their emotions and swing between extreme emotions to feeling absolutely nothing. They also believe that nobody understands them.

Sadly, people suffering from complex trauma are misunderstood by people around them.

5. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

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Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder5 or PTSD occurs when trauma symptoms continue and persist for a prolonged period after the terrible event. PTSD is a cause of concern as it may interfere with the person’s day-to-day life and affect their relationship with others.

Some common symptoms of PTSD include unprecedented flashbacks, anxiety, and memories of that event. Avoidance and withdrawal are also major symptoms of PTSD.

Individuals with PTSD avoid thinking about that particular event or visiting the place it occurred and avoid all types of triggers related to it.

PTSD must be taken very seriously, as it may last for many years. However, proper treatment can manage the symptoms and improve their overall quality of life.

Some of the risk factors associated with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) include:

  • Physical pain and injury
  • No support after trauma
  • Financial difficulty
  • Previous trauma or depression

6. Historical Trauma

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In the case of historical trauma, the effects of the traumas inflicted on groups because of their creed, race, and community may continue upon their descendants.

Due to this, the people of those communities are likely to have developmental and physical illnesses. This continuous cycle of trauma destroys their entire community and threatens its existence. Historical trauma is not just about what is happening in the past but also about what is still happening.

Some examples of historical trauma are slavery, war, genocide, and colonialism. A majority of people who experience this type of trauma have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

7. Intergenerational Trauma

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Intergenerational Trauma is also similar to vicarious trauma as the emotional, and psychological effects experienced by individuals here result from living with people who have experienced trauma first-hand.

The surviving patterns and coping mechanisms developed in response to trauma are passed from generation to generation.

8. System Induced Trauma

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System-induced trauma occurs due to traumatic removal from home, separation from siblings, traumatic experience in foster care, or multiple changes in placements in a short span of time.

This may psychologically affect the growth of the child in many ways.

9. Trauma Caused by Grief

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Image from Unsplash

Many types of trauma are caused by traumatic grief or separation. The sudden death of a parent, sibling or caretaker, close friend, close relative, or unprecedented separation from parent, sibling, or caretaker leads to traumatic grief in the child.

10. Medical Trauma

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Image from Unsplash

This is different from the other types of trauma. In this case, psychological and physiological responses occur due to single or multiple medical events in the individual’s life.

Medical trauma includes serious disease or illness, pain, injury, medical procedures, and frightening treatments.

Read more about the different types of trauma.

Treatment for Different Types of Trauma

There are several treatments available that can help people going through different types of trauma; some of them are:

1. Therapy

Therapy is the most preferred treatment to treat different kinds of trauma. In this case, the individuals will work with an informed trauma therapist to chart an effective treatment plan.

Different types of therapy include:

1.1. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) greatly helps people change their thought patterns which may, in turn, influence their emotions and behavioural patterns. Research studies have also shown CBT as the most effective approach to treating different types of trauma.


EMDR, or eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, is another commonly used treatment to treat different types of trauma.

During this process, individuals relive their traumatic experiences as their therapist directs their eye movements. This treatment helps people to process and integrate their traumatic experiences.

Over the years, many trials have been identified as an effective treatment for Post-traumatic stress disorder.

Therapies also use somatic or body-based techniques to help individuals process their trauma.

2. Medications

To a great extent, medications help a person deal with symptoms such as anxiety, irregular sleep, depression, and so much more. By properly discussing with their doctors, individuals may know the different options available to them.

3. Practicing Self-care

Indulging in self-care can also help individuals to manage their symptoms. Some of the things that can be incorporated into our day-to-day self-care include:

3.1. Exercise

Research studies have found that exercise is an effective treatment to treat trauma. Individuals are generally expected to exercise for about 30 minutes on all days of the week to keep their bodies fit.

3.2. Healthy Lifestyle

A healthy mind and body can play a crucial role in the overall well-being of an individual. Some things a person should compulsorily do are, eat a well-balanced diet, avoid smoking, alcohol, and drugs, sleep for about 7-8 hours a day, and most importantly, keep our minds happy and free from stress by indulging in enjoyable activities.

3.3. Social Interaction

Individuals need not necessarily discuss their trauma with others until they feel comfortable doing so, but engaging in simple talk enhances their mood and has a positive impact on their well-being.

In the End

Many people will go through a traumatic event at some point in their lives. Some of them may recover from it within a short span of time, while others may experience distress and shock over a longer time.

However, only a few may experience long-term traumatic effects, leading to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Therapy, medications, and self-care can help with trauma symptoms to a great extent and improve their overall quality of life.

The Magnificent Science Behind Trauma
Icy Health

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What Is Trauma?

Trauma is a psychological reaction to a traumatic experience that tests a person’s capacity for adjustment.

2. What Are Some Typical Trauma Types?

Sexual trauma, PTSD, physical trauma, mental trauma, and childhood trauma.

3. What Is Childhood Trauma?

Childhood trauma is brought on by neglect, physical, mental, or sexual abuse, or by seeing domestic violence.

4. What is PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)?

A condition that appears after a traumatic event, such as war, sexual assault, or a natural disaster, is experienced or witnessed.

  1. Schimmenti, Adriano. “The trauma factor: Examining the relationships among different types of trauma, dissociation, and psychopathology.” Journal of Trauma & Dissociation 19.5 (2018): 552-571. ↩︎
  2. Denton, Ruth, et al. “The assessment of developmental trauma in children and adolescents: A systematic review.” Clinical child psychology and psychiatry 22.2 (2017): 260-287. ↩︎
  3. Kolb, Bryan, and Bryan D. Fantie. “Development of the child’s brain and behavior.” Handbook of clinical child neuropsychology (2009): 19-46. ↩︎
  4. Creedy, Debra K., Ian M. Shochet, and Jan Horsfall. “Childbirth and the development of acute trauma symptoms: incidence and contributing factors.” Birth 27.2 (2000): 104-111. ↩︎
  5. Yehuda, Rachel, et al. “Post-traumatic stress disorder.” Nature reviews Disease primers 1.1 (2015): 1-22. ↩︎

Last Updated on by ayeshayusuf


Jenita T.J
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