Four Misconceptions About Trauma

Reading Time: 3 Minutes

Trauma is the Greek word for “wound” and the Merriam Webster definition of trauma is:

 A: an injury (such as a wound) to living tissue caused by an extrinsic agent

B: a disordered psychic or behavioral state resulting from severe mental or emotional stress or physical injury

C: an emotional upset

“There are wounds that never show on the body that are deeper and more hurtful than anything that bleeds.”

― Laurell K. Hamilton

As a society, we often associate trauma with physical harm such as sexual assault, domestic violence, and physical abuse; however, trauma comes in many different forms that can take deep root into an individual being affecting for their entire future. Childhood neglect, children who grew up in foster homes home, verbal abuse, schoolyard bullying, gaslighting in relationships, witnessing a natural disaster such as a fire, a life-threatening medical condition, or seeing a violent act are all forms of trauma.

The word “trauma” is often misinterpreted and can result in feelings of hopelessness, fear, anger, insecurity, and confusion that can become deeply rooted in the subconscious mind. Many individuals who have experienced past trauma will not be affected until later in life; when they enter into a new relationship or become a parent. Individuals may even develop negative coping skills such as substance abuse or eating disorders to cope with their past traumatic experiences without even realizing these disorders developed because of their past trauma.

Whether the trauma was physical abuse, emotional abuse such as neglect, or verbal abuse, the long-term effects of trauma, especially if left untreated, can wreak havoc.

Misconception #1: Trauma is the same thing as PTSD

Posttraumatic stress disorder is a mental health disorder that occurs due to a traumatic, life-threatening event; however, not all individuals who experience trauma will develop PTSD. PTSD occurs when an individual undergoes a life-threatening traumatic event and experiences flashbacks, nightmares, irritable behaviors, social withdrawal, and avoidance of particular places and people. These symptoms must occur for at least one month in duration. We define trauma not so much by the event itself but by the emotional and psychological effect that an event has on individuals. Some individuals can healthily navigate these psychological effects, whereas others may find themselves emotionally numb or distraught because of the enormous burden trauma can have.

Misconception #2: You only experience trauma after a life-threatening event

Although many life-threatening events can induce trauma, trauma comes in all shapes and sizes. It is not always the trauma with a capital T that pulls the rug out from under us, but it can be everyday traumas such as a divorce, the loss of a loved one, or a surgery.

For some people, divorce is a relief. For others, cancer is a challenge they accept to take on. For some soldiers, combat is the most exciting mission of their lives. However, these types of traumas can drive anyone over the edge. There is no universal scale for judging another’s pain related to their trauma. Internal pain is subjective, and everyone processes trauma is a different manner.

Misconception #3: Struggling with trauma is a sign of weakness

Admitting fears, expressing emotions, and asking for help are some of the strongest attributes an individual can hold. Trauma can be dark, and it can cause us a lifetime of emotional and physical pain and scarring if we do not seek help. Experiencing trauma. No two individuals will experience trauma in the same ways, even if they have experienced the same event. Many different factors can influence how someone will react to a traumatic event. Some people may have more reliable support networks or personal coping mechanisms in place that make them more or less prone to lasting psychological harm. People who do go on to develop PTSD or struggle significantly in their post-traumatic-event life are not weak. Trauma recovery is incredibly complex, and it is virtually impossible to predict individual reactions.

Misconception #4: Trauma is a life sentence

Traumatic events can be life-changing, but this does not mean that recovery from trauma is not possible. This also does not mean that only negativity and bad comes from trauma, as trauma can bring a lot of light and growth from the healing process. There is no straight or defined path for healing from trauma; however, it does not have to be a dark cloud or a negative experience for the rest of your life as with time, all things pass.

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AKUA Mind and Body is a full-service treatment program that offers a wide range of “east meets west” treatment modalities for many different populations struggling with depression and other mental health and substance use disorders. AKUA Mind and Body treats co-occurring disorders and works diligently with each client and their family to ensure that treatment is specifically tailored to their needs, and not just their disorder.

AKUA Mind and Body offers detoxification, intensive treatment programs, and outpatient treatment programs. AKUA Mind and Body uses a blend of holistic approaches combined with evidence-based treatment to help individuals who have been affected by depression to recognize their underlying triggers and develop healthy coping skills. Regardless of where you are in your recovery process, AKUA Mind and Body can help.

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