What is trauma

The standard dictionary definition of Trauma is, ‘a deeply distressing or disturbing experience’ Such distressing experiences could also be described as states of torment, agony, suffering, anguish, misery or being in pain.


Robert C. Scaer MD a renounced and influential professor in the study of trauma, defines trauma as ‘any negative life event that occurs in a position of relative helplessness’.


This understanding of trauma suggests that, if you have had an experience, that has left you feeling helpless, you may be experiencing trauma. Therefore, while we all agree that the big negative occurrences such as the witnessing or being part of a serious accident, is a traumatic event, everyday incidents can also induce a state of trauma. Trauma can be induced by any situation, where you are faced with a threat to your survival or well-being.  This can include:

  • being confronted,
  • losing your job,
  • being overwhelmed,
  • the break-up of a significant relationship
  • or any situation where you felt helpless and unable to exercise control over the event.


Such negative events can produce upsetting emotions, distressing memories and cause anxiety, being disconnected and not being able to trust others.


The development of psychological trauma is generally consistent with,

  • the experience being unexpected
  • you were not prepared
  • the event was totally out of your control.