What is Trauma?

March 27th, 2023

complex trauma and chronic trauma

What is Trauma?

Trauma is a term which describes the impact a negative event or experience has on a person’s wellbeing and their ability to cope and function as a result.

It can be caused by a wide range of experiences including abuse, natural disasters, car crashes, serious illness, violent events, career in the military, or the loss of a loved-one.

With symptoms that can be both physical and emotional, trauma can have a profound impact on a person’s ability to enjoy life.

“Trauma is not what happens to you. Trauma is what happens inside you as a result of what happens to you.” – Dr. Gabor Maté

In a recent interview with Dr. Gabor Maté, Prince Harry spoke about his own experience of trauma and how it was shaped by his childhood, the loss of his mother – Princess Diana, and his public profile.

The conversation touched on the importance of recognising trauma, understanding how childhood experiences can impact mental health later on in life, and the need for society to be more accepting of those who seek help for trauma and mental health issues.

We echo this sentiment at The Therapy Room and strongly believe that those who have experienced trauma deserve help, understanding and kindness.

Types of Trauma

There are five main types of trauma:

Acute trauma – resulting from a single, isolated event that is usually unexpected, such as a car crash, natural disaster, physical assault or the sudden death of a loved one.

Chronic trauma – exposure to repeated traumatic events over a prolonged period of time, such as ongoing physical, emotional, or sexual abuse.

Complex trauma –  refers to multiple traumatic events that take place over a longer period of time, resulting in the feeling of constantly being in survival mode or being “on edge”.

Secondary trauma – a form of distress or trauma that’s experienced through exposure to other people’s suffering. This type of trauma often affects people whose work frequently involves responding to negative events, notably paramedics, police officers, firefighters, nurses and doctors.

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) – the most common types of ACEs are the loss of a parent, emotional, physical or sexual abuse, and divorce. Going through these experiences at a young age can affect a person’s development and this emotional unhappiness can stay with a person long into their adulthood.

Common symptoms of Trauma

Depression and anxiety – going through a traumatic experience can leave a person feeling sad or anxious for an extended period of time. It is more than just feeling down or “having a bad day” when it starts to interfere with your life.

Re-experiencing – this is when a person involuntarily and sometimes vividly, is made to relive the traumatic event or experience through flashbacks or nightmares. During these instances, a person can often feel the physical sensations they felt during the traumatic experience itself, including pain, sweating or feeling sick.

Avoidance – those who have gone through a traumatic experience will often do whatever they can to try and forget it. This usually means avoiding certain people, places, smells, or anything else that could place the trauma at the forefront of their minds. It can also mean distraction techniques through overwork or substance abuse to try and numb their feelings altogether.

Hyperarousal – people who have experienced trauma often find themselves constantly in “fight or flight” mode. This makes it exceptionally difficult to relax and can lead to exhaustion, difficulties sleeping or outbursts of anger.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – it’s normal for a traumatic experience to make a person experience negative thoughts and feelings. For some people, these feelings gradually lift. However for others, the symptoms of trauma get worse and worse. If this is the case, they may be suffering from PTSD.

How can therapy help with Trauma?

It is important to recognise that trauma is a real and valid experience and that those who have experienced it deserve compassion, empathy, and support.

Your trauma is not lessened because you perceive someone else’s trauma to be worse.

Whatever your experience of trauma, you deserve to be listened to and being able to talk about your experiences in a safe, non-judgemental environment with a trained therapist can be incredibly helpful.

Here at The Therapy Room, we believe that trauma does not have to be a life sentence, and that with the right help and support, you can get back to feeling good.

We recognise that each individual’s experience with trauma is unique and that a “one-size-fits-all” approach doesn’t work.

Our therapeutic approach is based on the understanding that people are complex and lead complicated lives.

Tailored to your personal needs, we make a commitment to structuring and working for you as an individual.

The good news is that there are many effective treatments for trauma, and individuals who have experienced trauma can recover with the right support.


Founder Jay L Pink Ad.Prof.Dip MBACP PC MNCS (ACC) established The Therapy Room to offer high quality, expert counselling and therapy services to people of all ages, as well as to couples for relationship and partner counselling and groups for corporate and family therapy. Jay’s commitment to anyone visiting The Therapy Room is to unconditionally respect values, lifestyle, background and beliefs, offering a discreet and professional service tailored to their needs.

Therapy is held either in-person at The Therapy Room in Northampton or online.

To organise a booking, please visit our bookings and payment page.