What it is: The standard definition for trauma in mental health (sometimes called “big T Trauma”) is exposure to actual or threatened death, serious injury or sexual violence either through a direct experience or by witnessing or learning about such an event that occurred to someone else. Individuals with trauma-based disorders (e.g., PTSD) develop beliefs or expectations about others (e.g., others are dangerous), the world (e.g., the world is unsafe or unpredictable), or themselves (e.g., I deserved what happened to me, I am worthless or defective, I am unable to cope with difficult circumstances). Many individuals also go on to develop intense emotional reactions in response to direct or indirect reminders of the trauma, such as flashbacks, intrusive memories of the trauma, or nightmares. Associated symptoms such as an intense physiological response to trauma reminders (e.g., panic), an extreme focus on safety, or avoidance of things related to the trauma may also occur.
More recently, trauma researchers have begun to discuss what has been called “little t trauma.” This type of trauma includes any experience in which an individual experienced intense fear, shame, helplessness, or horror and developed cognitive, emotional, and behavioral consequences as a result of the event(s) that fundamentally changed how the individual experiences his or her world. Examples of little t trauma include emotional abuse; a pattern of being humiliated, bullied, or emotionally threatened; experiencing a public or very important failure; or repeated experiences of helplessness or powerlessness.
Associated Concerns: Symptoms following a traumatic experience often co-occur with anxiety and stress, mood disturbance, insomnia/nightmares, and shame. Some individuals develop substance abuse, anger management, or impulsive behavior problems in an attempt to cope with the effects of the traumatic experience.
Evidence Based Treatments offered: Trauma Therapies, DBT
Some people find that after the trauma itself is treated, they benefit from Self-compassion Informed Therapy