What does trauma look like?

Trauma comes in many forms, and its effects can look different for everyone.


Physical violence, emotional abuse or neglect, witness of a suicide attempt, witness of someone getting injured or killed, and sexual harassment are only some of the ways which trauma may be inflicted.

Understanding Trauma

Individual trauma results from an event, series of events, or set of circumstances that is experienced by an individual as physically or emotionally harmful or life threatening and that has lasting adverse effects on the individual’s functioning and mental, physical, social, emotional, or spiritual well-being.

SAMHSA, 2014

The Three E’s In Trauma


Events and/or circumstances cause trauma.


An individual’s experience of the event determines whether it is traumatic.


Effects of trauma include adverse physical, social, emotional, or spiritual consequences.

Survivors may respond differently to trauma, showing symptoms of one or more of the Fight, Flight or Freeze responses whenever their trauma is triggered.

Someone with a past traumatic experience may not verbally reveal their trauma to you, but may freeze up and begin sweating profusely every time they walk past a public bathroom. A car accident victim may never be able to sit in a car without crying or feeling nauseated.


You may know a child who suddenly began throwing severe tantrums whenever they were sent to regular private tuition. Without a trauma-informed approach, the child’s reaction could be misunderstood as bad behaviour and laziness rather than a reaction of fear to pain and abuse.

Trauma can have devastating long-term effects on the brain, impairing the survivor’s ability to function normally on a day-to-day basis.

Survivor’s often have lost a sense of control over their physical and emotional response to triggers because of an overstimulation of their senses during the traumatic event. Flashbacks, night terrors, lashing out, depressive or suicidal thoughts, avoidant behaviour, and withdrawal from social settings are all symptoms of trauma.

What is trauma

Understanding ACEs