All about Psychological Trauma

When people go through something that takes away their sense of security that event can be referred to as a traumatic event. There is emotional and psychological trauma. The more a person feels scared and helpless the more the trauma.

Emotional and psychological trauma is the result of extraordinarily stressful events that shatter your sense of security, making you feel helpless in a dangerous world.

Traumatic experiences often involve a threat to life but any situation that leaves you feeling overwhelmed can be traumatic, even if it doesn’t involve physical harm.

It’s not the objective facts that determine whether an event is traumatic, but your subjective emotional experience.

The more frightened and helpless you feel, the more likely you are to be traumatized.

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Through the developments made in technology, the brain can be scanned. These scans reveal that that when we undergo a traumatic experience, our brain function and structure changes.

What causes emotional or psychological trauma?

Our brains are structured into three main parts, long observed in autopsies:

  • the cortex (the outer surface, where higher thinking skills arise; includes the frontal cortex, the most recently evolved portion of the brain)
  • the limbic system (the center of the brain, where emotions evolve)
  • the brain stem (the reptilian brain that controls basic survival functions)

Because of the development of brain scan technology, scientists can now observe the brain in action, without waiting for an autopsy. These scans reveal that trauma actually changes the structure and function of the brain, at the point where the frontal cortex, the emotional brain and the survival brain converge. A significant finding is that brain scans of people with relationship or developmental problems, learning problems, and social problems related to emotional intelligence reveal similar structural and functional irregularities as is the case resulting from PTSD.

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For one to be safe they need to know what traumatic events are and watch out for these potential events. Potential traumatic events are for instance violent robberies, rape, abuse, earthquakes, war or even suicide of someone you love.

Potentially traumatic events are powerful and upsetting incidents that intrude into daily life. They are usually defined as experiences which are life threatening, or where there is a significant threat to one’s physical or psychological wellbeing.

The same event may have little impact on one person but cause severe distress in another individual. The impact that an event has may be related to the person’s mental and physical health, level of available support at the time of the event, and past experience and coping skills.


Situations and events that can lead a person to experience psychological trauma include:

Acts of violence such as an armed robbery, war or terrorism

Natural disasters such as bushfire, earthquake or floods

Interpersonal violence such as rape, child abuse, or suicide of a family member or friend

Involvement in a serious motor vehicle or workplace accident.

Other less severe but still stressful situations can also trigger traumatic reactions in some people.

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