Disclaimer:Please read the warning about spiritual bypass at the end of the article before reading this article. Please do not continue to read the article if you feel triggered at any point. Please reach out to support if you feel triggered.

Trauma is pain. It can happen to anyone and does happen to everyone. When the pain overwhelms our psychological and physiological systems, we start showing the signs of trauma lingering on within us.

Trauma has been studied by trying to classify trauma in different ways.

  • Acute trauma – single incident
  • Chronic trauma – repeated and prolonged (domestic violence and abuse)
  • Complex trauma – varied and multiple traumatic events

If we take a closer look however we realize that acute trauma is an artificial classification which makes us look at only one event in a person’s life. So when meeting with a person who recently had a car accident, we might be tempted to only focus on the trauma of the car accident. However the truth is that the car accident is the latest trauma in a series of trauma in the person’s life. If we truly meet the person where they are at, we will have to look at everything through the lens of complex trauma. Life is a complex trauma that we are constantly trying to heal by developing trauma resilient attitudes for our future.

To study the phenomenon of trauma we not only have classified it according to time lines, but also the type of pain that we can be exposed to.

  • Emotional Trauma
  • Physical Trauma
  • Sexual Trauma
  • Community trauma
  • Bullying
  • Domestic trauma
  • Natural disaster
  • Bereavement

Criterion A: stressor (one required)

The person was exposed to: death, threatened death, actual or threatened serious injury, or actual or threatened sexual violence, in the following way(s):

  • Direct exposure
  • Witnessing the trauma
  • Learning that a relative or close friend was exposed to a trauma
  • Indirect exposure to aversive details of the trauma, usually in the course of professional duties (e.g., first responders, medics)

Criterion B: intrusion symptoms (one required)

The traumatic event is persistently re-experienced in the following way(s):

  • Unwanted upsetting memories
  • Nightmares
  • Flashbacks
  • Emotional distress after exposure to traumatic reminders
  • Physical reactivity after exposure to traumatic reminders

Criterion C: avoidance (one required)

Avoidance of trauma-related stimuli after the trauma, in the following way(s):

  • Trauma-related thoughts or feelings
  • Trauma-related external reminders

Criterion D: negative alterations in cognitions and mood (two required)

Negative thoughts or feelings that began or worsened after the trauma, in the following way(s):

  • Inability to recall key features of the trauma
  • Overly negative thoughts and assumptions about oneself or the world
  • Exaggerated blame of self or others for causing the trauma
  • Negative affect
  • Decreased interest in activities

Feeling isolated

Difficulty experiencing positive affect

Criterion E: alterations in arousal and reactivity

Trauma-related arousal and reactivity that began or worsened after the trauma, in the following way(s):

  • Irritability or aggression
  • Risky or destructive behavior
  • Hypervigilance
  • Heightened startle reaction
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty sleeping

Criterion F: duration (required)

Symptoms last for more than 1 month.

Criterion G: functional significance (required)

Symptoms create distress or functional impairment (e.g., social, occupational).

Criterion H: exclusion (required)

Symptoms are not due to medication, substance use, or other illness.

Two specifications:

  • Dissociative Specification In addition to meeting criteria for diagnosis, an individual experiences high levels of either of the following in reaction to trauma-related stimuli:
    • Depersonalization. Experience of being an outside observer of or detached from oneself (e.g., feeling as if “this is not happening to me” or one were in a dream).
    • Derealization. Experience of unreality, distance, or distortion (e.g., “things are not real”).
  • Delayed Specification. Full diagnostic criteria are not met until at least six months after the trauma(s), although onset of symptoms may occur immediately.

The criteria given above can be overwhelming and they are meant to be used by clinicians. But at BLOSSOM we educate people about these. If we do not know how our body is reacting to the hurts in our life, we will always attribute a much more harmful explanation to why our body is doing something. Most often the explanations can revolve around shame, scapegoating, blame, anger, guilt, helplessness and hopelessness. Please contact us to start discussing how your hurts materialize in your life.

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