What is Trauma and How Does it Influence Our Lives?

What is Trauma and How Does it Influence Our Lives?

These kinds of emotional and psychological wounds can break our personalities.

Trauma is a reality in our lives, something much more frequent and common than it may seem. Its etymological root comes from the Greek, and means “wound”.


Traditionally it is considered as the consequence derived from an event, which generates psychic or physical disorders that affect the level of quality of our lives. However, trauma is not a life sentence.


What is trauma?

Emotional trauma is a “psychological wound” that can be caused by various situations, usually extraordinary, disturbing, overwhelming, and disturbing, that go beyond the usual experiences.


These highly stressful situations range from major natural disasters, wars, accidents, abuses …, “serious threats to life or physical integrity, real threats or harm to children, spouse, family, friends; sudden destruction of the home, of the community; witness the death or serious injury of another person as a result of an accident or an act of physical violence ”(DSM-5).


It can also encompass minor experiences, such as an operation, a fall, a punishment, serious illnesses, lack of protection, humiliation, change of roles in the family, migration to another city or country … which can also be experienced as a traumatic way.


It is not so much the dimension of the event itself that determines the damage produced, but its effects will also depend on each person, their history and their affective environment, the evolutionary moment in which it occurred. and its repetition over time.


On the other hand, it must be taken into account that the appearance of trauma can also be favored by the consumption of substances with psychoactive effects. However, if the consumption of these products is due to the follow-up of a pharmacological treatment supervised by doctors, the probabilities of this happening are very low, and also in these cases, professional help is available that can prevent the development complications early.

The effects of trauma

Trauma, regardless of its origin, affects the health, safety, and well-being of the person in such a way that they can develop false and destructive beliefs about themselves and the world around them.

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In general, it is considered as something normal that to certain events we react with sadness, anxiety, anger, irritability, behavior alteration, substance use … for a short period (Reijneveld, Crone, Verlhust and Verloove-Vanhorick, 2003, Dyregrow and Yule, 2006). However, sometimes these difficulties become so intense and long-lasting that they cause serious problems in personal functioning and psychosocial adaptation.


To account for these more intense and harmful phenomena, the WHO classification (ICD-10, 1992), proposes a category of disorders caused by stress and trauma, which includes Acute and Chronic PTSD, Adaptation, and Lasting Personality Changes after a catastrophic situation.


In these different psychological disorders, trauma is expressed in different ways, but in all of them, episodes of extreme stress and dissociation are usually involved to a greater or lesser extent.

Memories locked

Keep in mind that we are not always able to remember everything that has happened to us throughout our lives, sometimes memories of traumatic events are forgotten or fragmented.


According to the psychological current born with psychoanalysis, these are dissociative phenomena that make it impossible to remember what happened, which arise as a defense mechanism elaborated by our psyche, which provides us with a natural protective response to the overwhelming traumatic experience, allowing us to move forward to survive (Kisiel and Lyons, 2001). According to these hypotheses, the memory would not be lost, but remains in the memory in a latent and inaccessible way, until, thanks to a therapeutic process or some event in the life of the subject, they are spontaneously recovered partially or totally ( AL Manzanero and M. Recio, 2012).


The consideration that such a strong impact is produced that causes changes in the personality is of great importance for the study of the person and their emotional development since adverse, close and daily situations can not only determine symptoms and psychological alterations, rather, they compromise the full development of the personality.

When they appear during childhood and adolescence

Post-traumatic reactions in childhood and adolescence can be expressed in different psychopathological forms (Copeland, Keeller, Angold and Costello et al., 2007).

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Several studies on situations of abuse in childhood determined that the main psychological consequences of trauma were: depression, anxiety, self-hatred, difficulty modulating anger, dissociation, dullness, difficulties in attention and concentration, difficulty in control impulse, substance abuse, self-injurious behaviors, and risk behaviors, submission and dependence, a strong sensation of vulnerability and danger (Herman, 1992); revictimization, interpersonal and intimate relationship problems, somatizations and medical problems, loss of trust towards other people, feelings of helplessness and helplessness, traumatic sexualization, feelings of shame and guilt (Finkelhor, 1988).


These people present great hopelessness about the world and the future, they believe that they will not find anyone who understands them or who understands their suffering, maintaining a great internal conflict, with high levels of anguish. The positive comes when they try to find someone to help them recover from their anguish, their somatic worries, and their feeling of despair or hopelessness. (Amor, Echeburúa, Corral, Sarasua and Zubizarreta, 2001).

Characteristics of psychic wounds

Scientific research on trauma states that the act of expressing one’s feelings and intense emotional states in a cathartic way allows facing difficult situations, reducing the probability of obsessive rumination and an increase in physiological activity (Penneba and Susman, 1988).


In addition, it has been seen that social support, such as talking to a family member or friend about a problem, is one of the best-valued mechanisms for coping with difficult emotional situations (Folkman et al., 1986; Vázquez and Ring, 1992, 1996), in addition to cushioning one’s own stress (Barrera, 1988). The lack of close people to trust in difficult circumstances radically increases the risk of depressive episodes in vulnerable people (Brown and Harris, 1978).

The importance of attitude and mindset

People with an optimistic attitude seem to better manage the symptoms of physical diseases such as cancer, chronic diseases, heart surgery … (Scheier and Carver, 1992), which seems to be because the strategies used by these people tend to be more problem-focused, seeking social support, and finding the positive sides of the stressful experience.

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On the contrary, pessimistic people are characterized by the use of denial and distancing from the stressor, focusing more on the negative feelings produced by this situation (Avía and Vázquez, 1998). In this way, a personality pattern with a tendency to good health that is characterized by optimism, a sense of control, and a good capacity for adaptation is drawn more clearly (Taylor, 1991).

The treatment

Carrying out activities from Art Therapy, as a space for the elaboration of the traumatic event, favors recovery, facilitates social reintegration and therapeutic rehabilitation through a creative process.


These types of techniques promote the expression of one’s feelings from a different language that allows channeling sensations, emotions, and memories without pushing catharsis or emotional overflow, offering a new expressive path that escapes resistance and verbal blockage, favoring memory and the construction of a coherent story that makes it possible to understand what happened. This will allow the victim to integrate their experience, from a safe and non-judgmental environment (“Art therapy and artistic education papers for social inclusion”, Mónica Cury Abril, 2007).


Thus, trauma does not have to be a life sentence. During the healing process, a renewing evolution can be generated, capable of improving our quality of life, becoming an experience of transformation and metamorphosis (Peter A. Levine, 1997).


The ability that human beings have to forgive, to rebuild ourselves, to move on, to prosper, to enlighten ourselves, to overcome trials and events, to get up and resurface with a triumphant smile when we rediscover our identity, with love … is spectacular and simply admirable.

Bibliographic references:

  • Neria, Y .; Nandi, A. & Galea, S. (2008). Post-traumatic stress disorder following disasters: a systematic review. Psychological medicine, 38 (4): pp. 467-480.
  • Seligman, MEP & Maier, SF (1967). Failure to escape traumatic shock. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 74: pp. 1 – 9.
  • Steele K .; van der Hart O .; Nijenhuis, ER (2005). Phase-oriented treatment of structural dissociation in complex traumatization: overcoming trauma-related phobias. Journal of Trauma & Dissociation. 6 (3): pp. 11 – 53.
  • Whitfield, C. (2010). Psychiatric drugs as agents of Trauma. The International Journal of Risk and Safety in Medicine, 22 (4): pp. 195-207.


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