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Understanding Trauma

Trauma occurs when a person is overwhelmed by events or circumstances and responds with fear, anxiety, detachment, and/or helplessness. Extreme stress overwhelms the person’s capacity to cope. There is a direct correlation between trauma and physical health conditions. Trauma by definition is specific to the individual & experience(s).

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event. The symptoms of PTSD can be debilitating and impede an individual from carrying out day-to-day tasks. Specifically, leading to a drop in academic performance and retention.

What Causes Trauma?

Trauma can stem from multiple experiences:

Trauma and the effects of trauma are different for everyone

  • Childhood abuse or neglect.
  • War and other forms of violence.
  • Medical interventions.
  • Physical, emotional, or sexual abuse.
  • Accidents and natural disasters.
  • Grief and loss.
  • Witnessing acts of violence.
  • Cultural, intergenerational, and historical trauma.
  • Secondhand trauma – hearing about another’s traumatic experience or living with someone with PTSD.

How Common is Trauma?

"70% of adults in the U.S. have experienced some type of traumatic event at least once in their lives." (National Council for Community Behavioral HealthCare)

Possible Effects of Trauma


  • Physical ailments: headaches, body aches, digestive problems.
  • Anxiety: racing thoughts, sudden sweating, loss of breath, and/or heart palpitations.
  • Changes in sleep patterns: unable to sleep or oversleeping.
  • Easily startled: sensitive to loud noises or stimuli, such as light, touch.
  • Weakened immune system:  more frequent colds and illnesses.
  • Increase in alcohol and/or drug use: binge drinking.
  • Change in eating: over/binge eating, eating less.
  • Depression & fear.
  • Outbursts of anger: rage, lashing out at others, catastrophizing small setbacks.
  • Mood swings: ranging from extreme sadness, to extreme happiness, or somewhere between.
  • Nightmares & flashbacks.
  • Isolating from others: avoiding friends, groups, classes, work, or otherwise.
  • Detachment from feelings: being emotionally “numb.”
  • Difficulty trusting others: new or old acquaintances.
  • Self-blame: guilt, shame.
  • Lack of interest in everyday activities.
  • Feeling alone: thinking no one else has similar feelings, experiences or reactions.
  • Having trouble focusing: struggling with work or school.
  • Trouble recalling events: either events related to the traumatic experience or events that occur afterward.

Remember: Trauma and the effects of trauma are different for everyone. Ultimately, any change in your behavior, mood, or normal interests and personality may be an effect of a traumatic experience.


Contact Information

Butterfly Blaise
Title IX Coordinator
Office: Hawkins 151
Phone: (518) 564-3281
Email: [email protected]