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What is Trauma?

What Are Common Causes of Trauma?

“Trauma” has become a word we throw around in our daily life and is generally understood to be a highly stressful event. Psychologically speaking, though, “trauma” is an upsetting event or stressor (often life threatening) that exceeds a person’s ability to cope with and is accompanied with feelings of helplessness or powerlessness.  Given each individual’s combination of temperament, genetics and history, what may be traumatic for one individual may be within the ability for another to cope with, therefore trauma is based on the perception of each individual.

Examples of trauma include being a victim of or witnessing:

  • Assault
  • Plane or car accidents
  • Emotional/psychological abuse
  • Natural disasters (e.g. fire, avalanche, flood)
  • Physical threats
  • Public embarrassment/ shame
  • Rape
  • Spiritual abuse
  • Serious injury (e.g., burns, dog attack)
  • Sudden violent or unexpected death of a loved one (e.g., accident, suicide)
  • Major surgery (e.g., heart surgery)
  • Life-threatening illness (e.g., childhood cancer) 
  • War-related events and political violence

Traumas often related to childhood/upbringing specifically: 

  • Malnutrition 
  • Abandonment
  • Inattentive caregiving
  • Deprivation of physical, social or emotional needs
  • Domestic or family violence

Childhood traumas like inattentive caregiving, for example, may seem less “extreme” but often are more damaging as they often occur repeatedly during childhood before an individual has developed fully (e.g. completed developmental milestones leading to sense of personhood, ability to emotionally regulate themselves, seek positive support system, and utilize coping skills appropriately). These often involve situations where a child is depending on an adult to care for, attune to, and protect them, but instead get mistreatment, lack of attunement or protection and have nowhere to turn to get these essential needs met. An example may be a child falling down or injuring him or herself and instead of being met with compassion and care, he or she is scolded or even slapped for their clumsiness and commanded to “stop crying” repeatedly with further threats of violence if they don’t. When this happens repeatedly, a child’s development may be delayed or impaired and they may not learn skills to self-regulate and care for themselves leading to long term life difficulties. 

If you are struggling to move forward after experiencing trauma, please feel free to call me at 720-722-1434 or contact me to see how I can help you to get your life back, move out of survival mode and thrive again.


"Over the years our research team has repeatedly found that chronic emotional abuse and neglect can be just as devastating as physical abuse and sexual molestation.” – Bessel A. van der Kolk, "The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma"
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Denver, Colorado
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