Trauma ?

What is Trauma?

The word trauma (from the Greek) literally means wound, injury, damage by external violence.

Nowadays the word trauma is used to:

  • To refer to the shocking event, the traumatic event itself, which leaves deep marks in the person.
  • To describe the injuries that a person carries after experiencing a shocking, overwhelming event or being subjected to violence for an extended period of time.

The person has experienced this situation as a real threat to his personal integrity or to his life and has felt completely powerless and helpless in the face of this threat.


Types of traumatic stressors

  • Impersonal traumatic stressors:
  • Natural disasters, accidents...


  • Interpersonal traumatic stressors:
  • Criminal violence, rape, sexual harassment, war and terrorism.


  • Attachment trauma (between the parent and the child).
  • Abuse (physical, sexual, antipathy, psychological abuse, humiliation...)
  • Neglect (physical, psychological, social, medical...)
  • "Invisible attachment trauma" (The quality of the relationship between parent and child is insufficient to establish a secure bond).



Trauma is the experience rather than the exposure!

Trauma is that what causes dissociation (Howell,2020)



Trauma symptoms.

  • Cognitive trauma symptoms:
  • There may be a distortion in thoughts about oneself, the perpetrator, other people and the world in general.
  • An explanation is often sought as to why such a thing happened, partly with the intention of gaining some control over life and making it predictable.
  • Sometimes one starts to blame oneself and think one is bad.
  • Certain thoughts can contribute to one losing faith and trust in God, justice, or a good future.
  • Ideas about oneself (Internal Working Models) develop in four areas namely: self-worth/ safety/ responsibility/ competence.


  • Physical trauma symptoms:
  • Due to trauma, the body is perceived as unsafe:
    • The body is carrying the trauma.
    • The body is in pain.
    • The body carries the fear.
  • Because of attachment trauma, there is an unsafe attachment to the body.
  • Because of trauma, there is a splintered body.
  • Because of trauma, the body is separated from the self.
  • Symptoms: Stomachache, high blood pressure, back and headaches, rheumatic disorders, muscle aches, excessive sweating, hyperventilation, abdominal cramps and cardiac arrhythmias.
  • Many psychosomatic complaints can be understood as anxiety equivalents.


  • Neurological trauma symptoms:
  • Traumatic events have the potential to cause a change in the functioning of the brain.
  • The amygdala, which is considered the wake-up center of the brain, is under constant stress.
  • A stress response follows with physiological consequences such as increased heart rate, accelerated breathing, increased blood pressure, increased vigilance...a state of hyperarousal.
  • Or a reduced state of arousal (hypo arousal) arises from the increased stress and manifests as fatigue, passivity, stiffening of the body, closed off from reality...


  • Emotional trauma symptoms:
  • Fear, anger, shame, guilt, sadness, aloneness...are common emotional experiences.
  • There may be extremely sensitive and exaggerated reactions to situations.
  • Emotions are often dysregulated, sudden changes in feelings may occur, and sometimes there is difficulty dealing with negative feelings.
  • Sometimes there is difficulty admitting positive feelings and happiness.
  • There are difficulties in the regulation of emotions.


  • Behavioral trauma symptoms:
  • Avoidance of the memory of the trauma is common.
  • Sometimes behavior that resembles the trauma-related behavior develops; the maladjusted behavior is imitated, so to speak.
  • Avoidance of social contacts.
  • Alcohol and drug use.
  • Self-injury.
  • Suicide


  • Relational trauma symptoms:
  • When attachment trauma is present, certain insecure attachment styles are adopted:
    • Insecure avoidant attachment style (in adult: reserved style)
    • Insecure ambivalent attachment style (in adults: preoccupied attachment style)
    • Disorganized style (in adult: anxious attachment style)
    • Infanticidal attachment style
  • Relationally, one can get caught up in a traumatic bonding with the partner.
  • The relationship may get stuck in the trauma triangle (perpetrator/victim/abandoning other)
  • Trauma symptoms in relation to forming a coherent self.
  • No continuity in the experience of the self
  • The self is not developed.
  • The self is hidden.
  • The self is fragmented.


  • Spiritual trauma symptoms
  • Loss of values and dignity.
  • Loss of hope/ faith.
  • Loss of future perspective and goal setting.
  • Hatred and retaliation.