Trauma Types and Their Lasting Effects

Trauma Types

What is trauma? Trauma can be described as the emotions and responses we feel after a threatening event. Those that recover quickly from terrible occurrences are less likely to feel the lasting effects of trauma. Trauma affects an individual based on their reaction and the type of trauma they endure. There are three main types of trauma. Each trauma differs in the duration and frequency of the terrible event.

What are the Three Main Trauma Types?

According to the American Psychological Association, trauma is “an emotional response to a terrible event like an accident, rape or natural disaster.” Below are the three variations of this defined trauma.

Acute Trauma

Acute trauma, also known as Acute Stress Disorder, happens after a singular accident. Examples of an acute traumatic event can include: the sudden death of a loved one, car crash, rape, natural disaster, witnessing a crime, life-threatening diagnosis, etc.

This type of trauma is usually immediately after the terrible event occurs. People experience acute trauma because their security felt threatened or felt that their life was in danger.

Chronic Trauma

Chronic trauma is trauma that occurs repeatedly and for prolonged periods. Examples of chronic trauma can stem from bullying, domestic abuse, fighting in a war, witnessing violence regularly, physical neglect, etc.

Chronic trauma is determined by the frequency of the traumatic event. When a person witnesses violence or experiences something terrible every day, it can cause the development of chronic trauma.

Complex Trauma

Complex trauma is the exposure to multiple traumatic events that have lasting effects. Examples of chronic trauma can include severe childhood abuse, starvation, neglect, or long-term domestic violence.

Effects of Trauma

Depending on the type of trauma a person endures, their symptoms may vary. The most common side effects of trauma, according to Trauma-Informed Care in Behavioral Health Services, are the following:

Depression, isolation, severe anxiety, panic disorders, flashbacks, insomnia, poor concentration, anger, irritability, suicidal thoughts, addiction, failure in school and work.

In many ways, the symptoms of trauma present themselves in two ways, short-term and long-term. Many patients will experience the side effects of their trauma within the first year. Trauma tends to worsen into long-term symptoms if they are not treated quickly. There are many reliable articles and advice columns available on BetterHelp that show you how to address a traumatic life event.

How Does Trauma Present Itself


Short-term effects of trauma often involve denial, grief, and fear. After experiencing a traumatic event, an individual may go into shock and be unaware of their emotional outbursts and anxiety.


Long-term effects of trauma can include mental health disorders and strained relationships. Over time, it may be hard for a person to move past their traumatic event. In those cases, individuals can experience depression, PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), and anxiety disorders.

How Therapy Heals Trauma

Reduce Symptoms

When you see a therapist, they will likely explore your symptoms with you. These licensed professionals are trained to help you understand the root of your trauma and symptoms. Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavior Therapy works with those that are experiencing mental disorders due to trauma, as well. With their help, you can learn to overcome your symptoms which can include fear, anxiety, and depression.

Validates Feelings

Therapy also helps validate your feelings. When people experience trauma, they often feel that their experience is insignificant or not worth talking about. A therapist can help patients understand that their feelings are important and that they must acknowledge the importance of their feelings to grow.

Teaches Healthy Coping Methods

One of the most beneficial attributes of therapy is the things you learn. While attending therapy, most individuals learn healthy coping methods. Coping methods can include breathing exercises, journaling habits, inner dialogue direction, and more. These coping methods can put you on the path to recovery.

Finding a Therapist for You

Finding a therapist that can understand you and your symptoms is key to recovery. There are thousands of therapists around the world that are all licensed and certified to help. How do you know which one to choose? Thankfully, there are online options as well. You can find many popular options that specialize in around-the-clock services for people who need the convenience and comforts of home.