Definition of Trauma
1. any disturbing experience that results in significant fear, helplessness, dissociation, confusion, or other disruptive feelings intense enough to have a long-lasting negative effect on a person’s attitudes, behavior, and other aspects of functioning.
Traumatic events include those caused by human behavior (e.g., rape, war, industrial accidents) as well as by nature (e.g., earthquakes) and often challenge an individual’s view of the world as a just, safe, and predictable place.
2. any serious physical injury, such as a widespread burn or a blow to the head. —traumatic adj.
A More Conceptual Definition
Created by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration:
“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.”
Emotional Experiences can be as Traumatizing as Physical Ones
Notice that an emotional experience of harm can be just as traumatizing as physical experiences. Some people say that the pandemic has been traumatic to society. Here’s what the American Psychological Association was saying in 2020.
“The COVID-19 pandemic does not fit into prevailing Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) models, or diagnostic criteria, yet emerging research shows traumatic stress symptoms as a result of this ongoing global stressor…”
“We also measured general emotional reactions (e.g., angry, anxious, helpless), well-being, psychosocial functioning, and depression, anxiety, and stress symptoms. We found participants had PTSD-like symptoms for events that had not happened and when participants had been directly (e.g., contact with virus) or indirectly exposed to COVID-19 (e.g., via media). Moreover, 13.2% of our sample were likely PTSD-positive, despite types of COVID-19 “exposure” (e.g., lockdown) not fitting DSM-5 criteria.” Citation
Impact on Communication & Relationships
Whew! So our culture is, or was, in a state of trauma, while trying to navigate ever-changing pandemic data, rules, social expectations, health of self and family, and relationships. Is it any wonder we struggled so much to communicate? Many theorize that our brains are now feeling safe enough to fully process the impact of the last few years.
Research published in 2023 has this in the abstract: “Results indicated that COVID-19 traumatic stressors, and each of its three subtypes, were unique predictors of PTSD, anxiety, and depression. Thus, COVID-19 is a new type of traumatic stress that has serious mental health effects.”
When there is long-term stress, it reflects in our communication and our relationships. I’ll talk about that more in another blog. Here’s one about confirmation bias and belief perseverance.
How to Heal and Move Forward
- Buy What Happened to My Friendships; 5 Steps to Navigate the Social Distancing Crisis on Amazon
- Or Sign up for a free PDF HERE
- Explore the questions and move forward with Ease and Joy!