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If you are having thoughts of hurting yourself, help is available! 

Please make use of the free National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline 24/7; simply call or text 988

Chat services are also available through

If it has become a clinical or medical emergency dial 911, or visit your local Emergency Room.


If you are experiencing domestic violence and need information or support click here.

What is Trauma? 

A trauma can be thought of as an emotional shock.  It is an event, or series of events that overwhelm our ability to cope.  Culturally, the word “trauma” has the most serious undertones.  Many people only think of the capital-T versions, such as things experienced by war veterans, or victims of physical and sexual abuse/assault.  As a result, many do not consider their experiences to be serious enough to qualify or justify how they're struggling. 

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders (DSM-5-TR) defines trauma as “exposure to actual or threatened death, serious injury, or sexual violence in one or more of the following ways: direct experiencing, witnessing the event(s), learning that the traumatic event(s) occurred to a close family member or friend, or experiencing repeated or extreme exposure to negative details of traumatic events (i.e. first responders).” 

However, that doesn't necessarily capture the full scope of traumatic experiences.  Particularly those of complex trauma (with additional unique symptoms from the cumulative effects of repeated overt abuse and/or emotional/physical neglect usually beginning in childhood), intergenerational trauma (how the aftereffects of previous generations are passed down in behavioral and biological ways), as well as systemic abuse (political, educational and occupational policies that limit access to resources or opportunities for education or other advancement) and cultural trauma (includes microaggressions which are more subtle ways of putting down or excluding) targeted toward specific racial, ethnic, sexual, gender and religious groups. 

So, by the more general definition, most of us have experienced trauma at least once in our lives.  And while that doesn't mean we all have PTSD, these experiences can still be very challenging to overcome, and have likely left a mark on how we see ourselves and the world.  Most of us have lost loved ones, or seen them fall ill; or perhaps we have been the ones to experience serious medical issues. Some of us have lived, in or near violent neighborhoods.  We’ve been in car accidents, or gone to war, survived disastrous weather events or fires, or experienced sexually or physically inappropriate behavior.  In fact, in 2015, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) reported that in the U.S. 43.5% or 52.2 million women, and 24.8% or 27.4 million men reported experiencing some type of contact sexual violence (unwanted sexual contact including but not limited to rape).  Furthermore, of those numbers, the vast majority of attempted and completed rape occurred before the age of 18, 81.3% of women and 70.8% of men.  In addition, 1 in 4 women and 1 in 10 men reported experiencing some form of intimate partner violence (defined as sexual or physical abuse and/or stalking) in their lifetimes.  The CDC report does not differentiate between straight or LGTBQ couples, but interpersonal and sexual violence can and does occur in all groups.  Additionally, I think it's also important to note that these numbers only reflect what is reported, meaning that the actual numbers may be much higher.  Oh, and not to mention the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and mandated social isolation! 

As shocking as these statistics may be, the good news is that human beings are remarkably resilient!  We survive.  We adapt.  We have the ability to experience painful experiences and still go on to live happy, healthy and productive lives.  For those that struggle to bounce back and feel trapped and weighed down by their painful experiences...they may need some extra support and guidance.  


Some of the ways people cope and/or avoid are more obviously unhealthy, like abusing alcohol and other drugs, or self-harm (cutting, burning, or other ways of physically hurting oneself).  Other unhealthy strategies are less obvious but can still interfere with relationships and health.  These include but are not limited to: working or overly busy all the time, driving recklessly, taking up dangerous hobbies, or engaging in high-risk sexual behavior (like not using condoms with multiple partners). 

While it is a natural and understandable response to want to avoid reminders of painful experiences, it's usually when people avoid thinking and talking about them that they find it hardest to truly move forward.

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