The Causes and Effects of Trauma, and How to Cope With It

Effects of Trauma

Table of Contents

What is trauma?

Trauma is the emotional response to a serious and usually life-changing event. Trauma can last for a few days or weeks after the event takes place, or it can last for years afterward. There are three main types of trauma: acute, chronic, and complex (which is a combination of acute and chronic traumas). Each kind of trauma usually makes it hard for the individual who suffers from it to successfully move on with their lives. The symptoms of trauma can look different in every individual, and a number of different things can cause trauma in both children and adults.

What causes trauma?

Acute Trauma

Acute trauma is the sudden onset of trauma, usually caused by a natural disaster or some other one-time event. Examples of acute trauma include car wrecks, floods, fires, home invasions, hurricanes, school shootings, and even the current pandemic. Acute trauma can have either long-lasting effects or effects that resolve over time.

Chronic Trauma

Chronic trauma is characterized as events that happen over an extended period of time. All types of abuse are considered to be chronic trauma because abuse usually happens over time. Unfortunately, abuse can go on for a long period of time without being noticed, which almost always causes long-term effects. Different types of abuse that can lead to chronic trauma include domestic violence, sexual abuse (especially when it occurs in a religious organization), child abuse and neglect, and all other forms of physical, mental, and sexual abuse.

Complex Trauma

Complex trauma is usually found in children, and it’s a combination of both acute and chronic stress. Complex trauma is a serious issue because it negatively affects development in small children. This type of trauma is also caused by the caregivers, more often than not, and this prevents children from developing a secure form of attachment.

The Effects of Trauma

Trauma, in all forms, affects both the mind and the body. It can manifest as physical symptoms, such as nausea, headaches, and stomachaches, and it can also present itself in the form of a mental health issue, such as anxiety, depression, or even personality disorders. Trauma can even cause the sufferer to develop unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as drug and alcohol abuse or even copying the behaviors that caused their trauma in the first place.


PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder is one of the most common effects of a traumatic experience. It most notably occurs in military veterans that served in combat, but it can affect civilians in the same way after a traumatic event, though not everyone who experiences a traumatic event develops it. PTSD can last for a few weeks or months, or it can even last for several years. Psychotherapy is one of the most common ways that PTSD is treated, where the victim talks to a licensed psychotherapist about their experiences and learns about what triggers their flashbacks, nightmares, and unwanted thoughts. Medication can also be prescribed to alleviate some of the symptoms, such as anxiety and depression.

How to Cope with Trauma

In addition to therapy, there are many other ways to cope with all types of trauma, from minor to extreme. Exercise is a popular choice among many, because certain workouts improve your mood because of the endorphins the brain releases when engaged in physical activity. Engaging in the creative process (i.e., drawing, painting, dancing, and creating music) are also effective ways to cope with trauma— especially for young children. However, being able to talk to someone about your experiences and remain free of judgement is probably the most effective way to cope for most adults. Admitting to needing therapy is never a sign of weakness, but a sign of knowing how to cope with a situation in a healthy way.

If you’ve ever experienced trauma, never hesitate to reach out for help. Even if you don’t think your trauma is severe, talking to someone you trust is an effective way to cope.

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