Trauma Causes, Statistics, Signs, Symptoms & Side Effects

What is Trauma?

If you have suffered through a traumatic experience, you may be encountering emotional, physical, and psychological side effects as a result of this. Trauma is classified as any type of damage to the psyche that transpires as a result of a severely difficult or painful event. Individuals who have suffered through traumatic events or circumstances may experience extreme stress that overwhelms their capacity to cope. Trauma may also be able to leave a person fearing several things, such as annihilation, psychosis, or death. More commonly, a person who has suffered through trauma may feel overwhelmed in several aspects, such as emotionally, physically, or cognitively.

psychological trauma

Traumatic events can vary among individuals, but usually they result in feelings of insecurity and confusion. Examples of trauma include bullying, domestic violence, sexual abuse, being the victim of a parent who is alcoholic, experiencing a life-threatening disease, surviving a catastrophic event, such as war, extreme weather episodes, earthquakes, mass violence, exposure to poverty, or verbal abuse. While each of these situations can be considered traumatic, it is important to note that individuals may react differently to comparable events. Situations or events can become traumatic to an individual when they have become psychologically traumatized because of what they have experienced. Trauma can be emotionally, physically, and psychologically binding, causing a man, woman, adolescent, or child to feel helpless and vulnerable in the distressing world that surrounds them. If you or a loved one has been the victim of trauma, it is important that you seek the necessary professional help you need to heal from your suffering.

Trauma Statistics

Gathering more information about trauma is helpful in better understanding this condition and those who it can potentially affect. The following are important statistics about trauma that give greater insight into details about how sufferers are impacted:

  • In a study, two-thirds of the children reportedly experienced at least one traumatic event by age 16, including 30.8% with exposure to one event and 37% to multiple events. The most common events were witnessing or learning about a trauma that affected others – known as “vicarious” events [1].
  • Children who experience trauma are often those with depressive, disruptive behavior disorders and high anxiety [1].
  • Each year there are about 207,754 victims of sexual assault with someone in the United States being sexually assaulted every 2 minutes [2].
  • In the United States, approximately five million children experience some form of traumatic event each year [3].
  • More than two million children in the US are victims of physical and/or sexual abuse [3].
  • In many countries that have experienced war, more than 60% of the children are displaced and traumatized [3].

Causes of Trauma

Psychological and emotional trauma can be influenced by several things, such as a single event, a violent attack, a horrifying accident, a natural disaster, a life-threatening disease, or even living with persistently high levels of stress. These types of circumstances can likely lead to trauma, especially if under these conditions:

  • The event occurred in childhood
  • The individual was unprepared for the event, or it occurred unexpectedly
  • The individual felt defenseless or unable to prevent it
  • The event occurred repeatedly

Trauma may also be caused by other situations that are more commonly overlooked. Such circumstances may be as follows:

  • Sports injuries, or injuries that debilitate quality of life
  • Divorce or break-ups in significant relationships
  • The sudden death of a loved one
  • Car accidents
  • Falls
  • Surgeries
  • A humiliating or severely embarrassing situation

Traumatic events can vary depending on the individual encountering each specific situation. What may be identified as a traumatic event for one person may be entirely different for another person. Having the necessary professional support after suffering a traumatic event can greatly assist the trauma healing process.

emotional trauma

Signs and Symptoms of Trauma

When a man, woman, adolescent, or child has suffered a traumatic event, particular signs and symptoms will be evident, typically displayed after the traumatic experience. The severity of the symptoms can be widely varied, largely depending on the individual. The following are possible symptoms that trauma has occurred:

  • Abuse of drugs or alcohol, typically to “numb” pain felt by the traumatic event
  • Flashbacks of the event
  • Depression
  • Anxiety/Panic attacks
  • Intense feelings of anger, outbursts
  • Repressed memories
  • Emotional detachment
  • Loss of self-esteem
  • Disassociations
  • Suicidal ideations
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Irritability, moodiness
  • Withdrawal from others, seeking isolation

If you or your loved one has been experiencing any of these above symptoms as a result of trauma, consider seeking support from a trauma professional that can help guide you through this difficult time period in your life.

Trauma Effects

If you have been the victim of a traumatic event, you are likely experiencing distressing effects in every facet of your life, including your physical health, emotional well-being, and social life. Experiencing trauma will result in many uncomfortable and painful effects, which can impact your life tremendously. If the root cause of the trauma is not dealt with effectively, it can escalate into much more damaging and chronic symptoms. No matter the length of time one might be suffering from trauma, the effects can be debilitating if not treated or addressed professionally. Understanding how trauma may affect the different aspects of your life may encourage you to get the help you need and deserve. The following are some of the effects of trauma:

Physical Effects – As a victim of trauma, you may suffer effects that will impact you physically. These are some physical effects that may be experienced:

  • Suicidal ideations
  • Abuse of drugs or alcohol to “numb” pain
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Nightmares
  • Insomnia
  • Hallucinations
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Muscle tension
  • Fatigue

Psychological Effects – Trauma will have a tremendous impact on your mental health, particularly if the trauma victim has inadequate support or professional help. Some of the psychological effects that may be experienced include:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Increased feelings of depression or anxiety
  • Disassociations
  • Feeling disconnected or numb
  • Feeling sad, hopeless, or in despair
  • Indentify changes
  • Depression
  • Panic attacks
  • Outbursts of anger
  • Mood swings
  • Regression
  • Emotional detachment

Finally, trauma can have negative consequences on your social life. Social effects of trauma include:

  • Decrease in performance at work or school
  • Withdrawal from loved ones
  • Lack of enjoyment in hobbies or activities once enjoyed
  • Avoidance of social situations or any events that may be a “trigger” of the trauma

Trauma Treatment

If you or a loved one has become a victim of trauma, you may have been enduring difficult circumstances as your body attempts to cope with overwhelming emotions. Living through a trauma may cause you to feel scared and fearful in a world of unknown, but you can find hope and healing through this process. By seeking the appropriate help and care you need, you can find the resources you need to address your trauma in a healthy way. Attempting to deal with your trauma alone can possibly further isolate you or leave you more confused, angry, or fearful. A trauma treatment center can provide the tools and resources you need to recover and heal from any situation you may have endured.

Other Articles on Trauma

  • Studies have shown that up to 75% of individuals seeking treatment for a substance abuse disorder have been exposed to or experienced a traumatic event in their lives (SAMHSA/CSAT, 2000). Studies show that 12%-34% of individuals in substance abuse treatment are also diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, the official psychiatric diagnosis for individuals who have experienced a trauma.
  • The experience of trauma is everywhere in America, 75% of Americans have experienced a traumatic event and 6.7% of those individuals have had posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in their lifetime.





Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on April 15th, 2013
Published on, Addiction Online Guides