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Emotional and Psychological Trauma

The word ‘trauma’ is frequently used to describe an overpowering incident or encounter, such as a violent crime or a disastrous natural disaster. It's crucial to distinguish between traumatic situations, which are beyond our comprehension and can significantly and permanently affect our quality of life and wellbeing, and more typical experiences that produce tremendous tension and worry. Trauma, in the words of the American Psychological Association (APA), is "an emotional reaction to a catastrophic event like an accident, rape, or natural disaster."

Traumas come in a variety of forms. The three most significant ones are listed below.

  • Acute trauma is characterised by severe suffering that occurs right away after a single occurrence and lasts just a short period. A vehicle accident, a physical attack, or unexpected demise of a loved one are typical instances.

  • Chronic trauma are harmful incidents that occur often or over an extended period of time. It may arise in response to ongoing emotional, physical, or sexual abuse as well as domestic violence.

  • Complex trauma is when painful experiences occur repeatedly or in a series without a way out. Like other forms of trauma, it has the potential to undermine one's feeling of security in the world and lead to hypervigilance.

An individual's response to trauma might vary. Your mind and body work as hard as they can to absorb what transpired after a stressful experience. Emotional, mental, and bodily symptoms are most frequently present in reactions.

Even though it may be upsetting and challenging at times, the trauma we are now experiencing will only worsen if we do not address it. Individual reactions to identical traumatic events can vary, and not everyone who experiences a potentially traumatic incident will become psychologically traumatised. This is why individual experiences of trauma can be precisely tied to individual reactions to similar traumatic events. The ability to cope with a traumatised person's return to regular life without obvious or severe repercussions may be the most crucial factor. The elements that have the biggest influence over behaviour are temperament and environment.


Complexity is a hallmark of emotions. It's not only one single brain function, but maybe the most significant. According to neurobiological theory, the limbic system of the mammalian brain is where emotions, whether they are pleasant or unpleasant, are organised. Emotionally significant parts of cognitive processes are presented. Mental processes are still necessary, especially when interpreting experiences. A mental image of an emotion that was experienced in the past or in a hypothetical situation that is connected to a content state of pleasure or annoyance is what is meant by an emotion that is being experienced consciously. By verbally expressing experiences and describing an internal state, the content states are established.

Emotional trauma is recognizable by a persistent sense of unsafety and other challenging emotions such as fear and/or anxiety. Physical symptoms including persistent sleeplessness, nightmares, and other health problems are frequently present along with it. In reality, mental trauma is just as real as a physical injury. Infact, it can be far more detrimental and pervasive than wounds brought on by a traumatic experience. Emotional trauma seldom gets better on its own and may even get worse if you try to ignore it or push through the discomfort.

Controlling the emotions involve different components, such as subjective experience, cognitive processes, expressive behaviour, psychophysiological changes, and instrumental behaviour. The core of coping with psychological trauma is specific and appropriate identification of specific emotion and dealing with different components of emotion, as the most complex psychological function. Traumatic events often induce very strong feelings of life threat.


Psychological trauma is an outcome of a traumatic experience when the individual is overwhelmed by their ability to cope with the situation along with their emotions therefore resulting in them fearing death, annihilation, mutilation. The cause of traumatic experience most often include abuse of power, betrayal of trust, entrapment, helplessness, pain, confusion, and loss of something or someone very important in one’s life. This consideration is very broad and it might include response to specific violent events, accidents, and natural disasters, which are nowadays very common. Psychological trauma is also related to chronic and repetitive experiences, such as child abuse, neglect, combat, and constant deprivation.

Since each survivor must decide whether a circumstance qualifies as traumatic and because trauma can show up clinically as a variety of mental problems, the word and context must be analysed objectively. In other words, two separate people can go through the same event or provoking factor, which is typically associated with trauma, and one person can feel intense trauma while the other person escapes unharmed. A generalisation or one-size-fits-all approach is just not viable, as each brain has a unique structure and physiology, trauma may take many different forms, and each person who experiences trauma is unique.


Trauma, as a physiological reaction has harmful effects on the brain which can be so severe that it interferes with a person's capacity to live a normal life. Assistance may be required to alleviate the stress generated by the trauma impact and to improve a person's mental well-being. Physiological arousal, emotion, cognition, and memory all undergo significant, long-lasting alterations as a result of traumatic experiences. It overpowers the routine care systems that offer people a sense of control, connection, and purpose.

The boundary between psychological trauma and emotional trauma is quite thin. The effect of situations or experiences that leave us feeling incredibly frightened and frequently powerless is emotional trauma. It might be brought on by a single incident or be a part of a pattern of experiences such persistent abuse, bullying, discrimination, or humiliation. As opposed to psychological trauma, it is the damage or injury to the psyche which can make it difficult for individuals to function properly or cope after experiencing a traumatic or severely upsetting incident. Emotional and therefore psychological trauma is often manifested as the result of highly specific stressful life situations that shatter your sense of well-being, making you feel helpless in a dangerous world.


Herman, J. L. (1992). Trauma and Recovery.

Leonard, J. (2020, June 3). What is trauma? What to know. MedicalNewsToday.

Robinson, L. (2022, August 19). Emotional and Psychological Trauma. HelpGuide.Org.

Starcevic, A. (2019). Introductory Chapter: Psychological Trauma. Psychological Trauma.

The Jed Foundation. (2022, May 11). Understanding Emotional Trauma | JED.


This Blog on 'Emotional and Psychological Trauma' has been contributed by Diksha Jain.

Diksha Jain is a proactive and self-motivated individual with a very keen interest in the field of psychology. Owing to the importance of mental health in today's times has helped her gain a vision of helping people thrive in their lives in its truest sense. Along with gaining more practical exposure to what this spectrum field of psychology has to offer. She is part of the Global Internship Research Program (GIRP). GIRP is an IJNGP initiative to encourage young adults across our globe to showcase their research skills in psychology and to present it in creative content expression.


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