Trauma: Causes and Types

By no means is this information meant to be all inclusive or diagnostic. This is a brief compilation on causes and types of trauma to increase awareness. For in depth reading I recommend Bessel van der Kolk’s The Body Keeps the Score and Peter Levine’s Waking the Tiger. Yoga instructors interested in specializing in Yoga for Trauma, especially for interpersonal violence, I recommend The Purple Dot Project.

Causes of Trauma

Whether consciously aware of it or not, we all experience trauma at some time in life. There are obvious forms of trauma: war, severe emotional, physical, or sexual abuse; neglect, betrayal, or abandonment during childhood. Experiencing or witnessing violence; rape, and catastrophic injuries or illnesses. Trauma often occurs in less obvious ways: minor auto accidents; invasive medical and dental procedures; especially when performed on children who are restrained or anesthetized; medical exams we know are necessary and helpful can be experienced as an attack, such as a pelvic exam; falls and other ‘minor’ injuries, especially in children and elderly; natural disasters; illnesses, especially with high fevers or accidental poisoning; being left alone, especially when we are young; prolonged immobilization such as casting, splinting for turned in feet or scoliosis; exposure to extreme heat or cold; sudden loud noises; birth stress for both mother and the baby. Any of these types of incidents occurring in children, magnifies the potential for traumatic aftermath.

Types of Trauma

Shock: a single, unexpected event which overwhelms the nervous system and our normal coping mechanisms. It triggers feelings of intense fear, helplessness, and/or loss of control.

Complex multiple and/or chronic and prolonged developmentally adverse traumatic events. They often of an interpersonal nature and occur early in life. They often occur within a child’s care giving system.

Developmental: multiple or chronic exposure to one or m ore forms of developmentally adverse interpersonal trauma. Develops over time from an ongoing imbalance of harmony between a child and parent(s) or primary care givers.

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