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

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

Chat services are available through

You can also visit your local Emergency Room.

What is Trauma?

A trauma can be thought of as an emotional shock.  Culturally, the word “trauma” has a very serious undertones.  The first things most people think of are war veterans, or victims of physical and sexual abuse.  As a result, many people don’t consider their experiences to be serious enough to qualify.  For example, dismissing sexual harassment in comparison to rape, or referring to a family member or romantic partner as mean when they would regularly be insulted by that person, but not as emotionally abusive. 

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders (DSM-5) 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 including complex trauma, intergenerational trauma, as well as systemic abuse and cultural trauma targeted toward specific racial, ethnic, religious groups. 

So by the more general definition, most of us have experienced trauma at least once in our lives.  We’ve lost loved ones, or seen them fall ill. Some of us live, or once lived, in or near violent neighborhoods.  We’ve been in car accidents, or gone to war, 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 for 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 and/or physical abuse and/or stalking) in their lifetimes.  The CDC report does not differentiate between hetero or LGTBQ couples, but interpersonal and sexual violence can and does occur in all groups.

As shocking as these statistics are, the good news is that human beings are remarkably resilient!  We survive.  We adapt.  We have the capacity to endure painful experiences and go on to live happy, healthy and productive lives.  The problem is that sometimes, people struggle to bounce back.  They feel trapped and weighed down by their painful experiences. 


Some people try to cope in more obviously unhealthy ways, like alcohol and drug addiction, or self-harm (cutting, burning, or other ways of physically hurting oneself).  Others may engage in less obvious unhealthy coping behaviors that can still interfere with relationships and health, like working all the time, driving recklessly, taking up dangerous hobbies, or engaging in high-risk sexual behavior (not using condoms).  While it is a natural and understandable response to want to avoid reminders of painful experiences, when people try not to think or talk about their trauma it often keeps them stuck in the grip of that pain.

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