What is trauma? | Physical and Psychological Factors

Trauma is a long-lasting fear response resulting from a negative life-changing experience.

It also refers to a severe physical injury that can cause permanent and life-threatening issues.

Trauma is a painful experience that leaves individuals psychologically unstable or debilitated physically.

A professional may use therapy, medication, and time to treat psychological and physical trauma.

Those with psychological trauma may seek a therapist, psychologist, or mental health specialist to manage their mental health.

People with physical trauma may work with a rehabilitation center or physical therapist to recuperate from their injury.

Here is a description of the two primary types of trauma a person may receive and how they affect their lives.

Mental trauma

Psychological trauma is a long-term fear response a person continuously experiences after the traumatic event has ended.

It causes individuals to consistently recount and react to the experience, even when it’s no longer present.

Individuals with psychological trauma may be conscious or unconscious of the driving forces behind their mental/emotional state.

This experience disrupts their sense of safety and security to a detrimental extent.

In addition, it causes overwhelm and an inability to respond appropriately to specific current and future stresses.

Those who experience psychologically traumatic circumstances may also develop negative beliefs, perceptions, and habits.

It can make it difficult to develop healthy relationships, maintain high self-esteem, and lead happy and healthy lives.

Mental trauma may result from a single exposure to a negative event or continuous exposure to adverse circumstances.

Sometimes it results from a single experience like rape or witnessing a murder.

From there, a particular experience may trigger memories of the event, causing them to relive the incident repeatedly.

Reliving the experience may cause depression and a long-lasting feeling of hopelessness.

Depression causes a negative emotional state for long periods beyond the adverse event.

It prevents them from making helpful decisions or reacting appropriately to current or future events.

Here are several other examples to illustrate the potential causes of psychological trauma.

The following examples are not diagnoses, and everyone responds to the following experiences differently.

As a result, some people may have backgrounds, behaviors, and thoughts that do not align with the following examples.


Trauma often occurs with physically and mentally abused victims.

These victims may experience a severe loss of control and an inability to protect themselves.

As a result, they may avoid particular situations, feel distant from others, and repeatedly relive the memory.

They may also be unable to form healthy, trusting relationships, self-harm, and have low self-esteem.

Trauma makes it challenging to develop healthy mental/emotional coping mechanisms in essential areas of life.

It can alter a person’s perception, causing persistent fear around well-intentioned individuals.


A traumatic experience may result from being a victim of a crime or experiencing a crime occur to someone else.

This experience can cause an individual to develop unhealthy perceptions of people, leading to misjudgments.

It can also make communicating with others or forming close relationships difficult.

Mental/Physical abuse

Mental and physical abuse within a household or community can cause a person to develop various mental health conditions.

Abuse may cause individuals to develop negative beliefs about themselves and others.

As a result, they’re more likely to develop low self-esteem and a sense of worthlessness.

Trauma may occur from abusive parents, family members, communities/schools, and other social spaces.

Secondary Trauma

Some trauma is due to an intense experience an individual may not have directly encountered.

For instance, hearing or seeing an unsettling event that occurred to someone else may cause secondary trauma.

It may include experiencing a friend encountering a significant car accident or physical assault.

Although the person experiencing their friend’s accident/assault is unharmed, the experience causes secondary trauma.

War, Death, and Conflict

Individuals who experience war, conflict, or death often develop long-term depression and physiological conflict.

War recruits and veterans experience trauma due to violence, conflict, and psychological and mental stress.

These individuals may experience losing a close friend due to the nature of war.

It often causes lifelong psychological issues requiring regular therapy and strong relationships.

It also makes leading an emotionally stress-free life difficult once they return home.

Many individuals suffer from these various forms of trauma manually.

It makes coping with daily life challenging and predisposes them to see unrelated events as a continuation of past trauma.

Physical Trauma

Severe injuries like deep cuts, broken bones, head injuries, or blunt force can cause physical trauma.

It can cause significant long-term health problems or even death if untreated.

Physical trauma occurs when a person receives a decisive blow or deep wound to the body.

It includes car accidents, heart attacks, seizures, brain injuries, and other forms of severe impact.

The following section covers several forms of physical trauma.

Physical Abuse/Assault

Physical abuse or assault are common causes of trauma.

It occurs due to physical fights, escalated confrontations, and among child abuse perpetrators.

Physical abuse/assault is when one person attacks another and severely injures them.

Automobile Accidents

Automobile accidents and collisions often result in severe physical injuries.

These injuries cause blunt force, deep cuts, muscle and tendon strain, and broken bones.

In some cases, the injuries are so severe they cause physical trauma.

Sports Accidents

Sports like football and skiing are known to cause concussions and other injuries due to blunt force.

The consistent impacts over time may lead to severe pain and physical trauma.

As a result, some athletes will utilize physical therapy and recovery to recover.

Slips and Falls

Hard slips and falls may cause severe injuries like broken bones and deep punctures.

An individual may slip and fall due to age, ice, wet surfaces, faulty ground, or lousy footwear.

Those who develop mobility issues from injuries may develop depression.

They may also experience a lack of motivation because they can not perform physical activities they enjoy.


Trauma results from an adverse physical or physiological experience and can cause debilitating conditions.

With proper therapy, medication, and effort, the effects of trauma may be reduced or even eliminated.

However, every situation is different, and the level of recovery varies depending on the experience and the individual.

An individual’s situation may worsen or lead to severe depression without proper care and intervention.

It also decreases an individual’s ability to cope with complex areas of their life successfully.

Additional Resources: