14 Types of Trauma We Don't Talk About
As a society, we seem to have a limited view of trauma, assuming “real” emotional damage can only happen in a war zone or after an extreme, violent event. And while of course, war and the despair it brings can be traumatic, trauma can happen in other areas of our lives, too. The American Psychological Association defines trauma as an “emotional response to a terrible event” and an estimated 70 percent of adults in the United States have experienced a traumatic event at least once in their lives.
Not everyone who experiences trauma will go on to develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but that doesn’t mean it won’t leave a lasting impact on their lives. Sometimes events that wouldn’t bother some people deeply affect others, so it’s important we respect everyone’s experiences. We all go through things that shape us one way or another — big or small — and everyone deserves to get the support they need.
Here’s what they shared with us:
1. Sibling Abuse
“Sibling abuse. Too many people believe it’s normal or just sibling rivalry. If you talk about it some think you’re being oversensitive or dramatic.” — Julia L.
“Abuse from your siblings, and parents not seeing or ignoring it.” — Reba E.
2. Verbal Abuse
“Verbal abuse. Everyone assumes being hit is so bad, but my verbal abuse led me to believe that I’m the nothingness I feel in my soul.” — Becky P.
3. Trauma From a Psychiatric Hospitalization
“Inpatient hospitalization is not often dealt with, but a psych hospital can be very traumatic. I experienced PTSD and was felt alone after discharge. I had a hard time transitioning back to ‘normal’ life.” — Amy B.
“Being in a psychiatric hospital. People automatically assume that a hospital makes you better and improves your life, but it can give you a lot of trauma. You never get the sound of panic alarms out of your head… It isn’t a nice environment to be in and you never forget the things you see and hear there.” — Phoebe G.
4. Trauma From Mental Health Providers
“Therapy trauma! Sometimes therapists cause a lot of trauma in their behavior. They treat you horribly, invalidate your experiences, deny you, drop you as a client, etc. It can be very traumatic to be in that ‘helping’ relationship but suffer more harm from them.” — Josie S.
5. Trauma From Years of Misdiagnosis
“The trauma of misdiagnosis. No one realizes how pervasive the damage of misdiagnosis can be. I have Asperger’s but until I was 24, I was told it was depression, anxiety, bipolar, schizoaffective and BPD. I did have BPD, but it was likely from a lifetime of invalidation and pain caused by the misdiagnosis and subsequent treatment for disorders I didn’t even have.” — Niki G.
“Misdiagnosis, being prescribed the wrong medication from the misdiagnosis, and being overly medicated at a young age.” — Traci L.
6. Childbirth Trauma
“Birth trauma. Everyone gets so wrapped up in the new baby that the mom is completely overlooked and many mothers experience birth trauma, which can lead to perinatal mood and anxiety disorders.” — Mandi W.
“Childbirth trauma. Many women lose their babies, come close to it, suffer injury or near death experiences. Sometimes the loss of control is enough to traumatize a woman, too, and that’s valid. Because birth is a common occurrence and generally a happy moment for people, they are less able to relate and will go as far as to distance and silence women by saying things like, ‘You’re going to scare people with your story. That’s so rare.’ It takes away validity and isolates the person. Speaking from experience, it’s terrible.” — Megan S.
7. Trauma in a School Setting
“Teacher/educator. A large amount of the beginning of my mental health problems were made infinitely worse by horrible people in teaching positions. The teachers are often much worse than the actual bullies in school, but because they’re in a position of authority and it’s their word against yours, or they couldn’t possibly be doing something wrong because of their job, nothing ever changes.” — Cheyenne L.
8. Trauma From Homelessness
“Being homeless can be traumatic and it doesn’t mean one lives outside, too. One can have shelter albeit family, friends, etc. Besides, one can lose their dignity during this time, going through things to keep safe, and watching every step in order to survive for the next day. On top of it, doing what one can in order to have a home again. It can be a long process to go through, trying to not just make ends meet, but the reality of having to accept it all, even after the fact.” — Tatauq M.
9. Trauma From a Strict Religious Upbringing
“Trauma from growing up in an oppressive and fear-based church. I wish this was recognized! It has been easier to recognize other parts of my life as traumatic, but for the longest time I felt silly thinking that a Christian church could cause me so much trauma. Looking back however, it makes sense how it spiraled me and put me in vulnerable situations where I experienced more trauma. I’m just afraid no one will believe me when I say it had a devastating psychological impact that has severely exacerbated my mental health issues and chronic pain.” — Lily N.
“The effects of psychological abuse/gaslighting. The long term effects, like the overwhelming sense of confusion and bewilderment. And the effect it has on your mental well-being, like repressed memories, experiences and emotions, and the severe traumatization it causes when it starts to unravel.” — Lulu B.
11. Secondary Trauma
“Exposure to others’ trauma. I ended up having flashbacks from things that didn’t happen to me… in such vivid detail. This was likely because it was a loved one, but it seems like I’m ‘being dramatic’ or ‘feeling too much.’ I think it’s never talked about because it seems ‘crazy’ or ‘irrational.’”– Eddie E.
“Witness trauma. Anything from witnessing the emotional/verbal abuse of a parent from a young age to a major auto accident. Too many assume you have to be the one who was ‘damaged’ in some way to have been traumatized.” — Kae-jo W.
12. Medical Trauma
“Medical procedures that happen to kids who are too young to understand what is happening and why.” — Rebecca G.
“Trauma after multiple surgeries. Medical malpractice trauma. Being sick/pain with no answers.” — Christie M.
“Medical. I have so many problems just getting myself to go to a doctor or a hospital if I need help because I have had such negative hospital experiences.” — Erica W.
13. Trauma After Surviving a Suicide Attempt
“Post-suicide attempt trauma. No one talks about how traumatic it is to survive a suicide attempt.” — Outsarters A.
“Surviving a suicide attempt that no one knows about.” — Reid R.
14. Emotional Neglect
“Emotional neglect. I was the oldest of four children. One brother had bad behavior problems, one brother had heart problems and my sister was six weeks premature. Because I didn’t have any ‘problems’ I was unintentionally overlooked emotionally by my parents. I didn’t need them like my younger siblings so I was kinda pushed to the side and I made myself invisible. Because of this I stuttered badly and it was the beginning of my BPD.” — Gina S.
“Attachment trauma, caused by long-term (emotional) neglect and/or repeated verbal/physical abuse during early childhood. I didn’t know it existed before I got diagnosed with it in late 2017. I think the common understanding of trauma is that of war, natural disaster and violence, although the latter is not ‘explored’ in all the different aspects. But the attachment we form with our first attachment figures determines our social behavior in adulthood. The impact of trauma on the child’s (neurological) development needs to be discussed more. Children are not blank slates and unaware of their surroundings.” — Lena C.
“Neglect. The trauma of not being cared for by those who are supposed to. Whether it be intentionally being left alone, or not having enough food or adequate shelter, or the neglect of not feeling loved. From my experience, people don’t treat neglect as a form of trauma but it impacts people, especially children, just as must as physical harm does. It creates long term anxiety about having enough, being provided for, being cared for, etc, and certainly affects a persons sense of safety and security.” — Emma S.
If you’ve been through trauma, you’re not alone. The National Domestic Violence Hotline has great resources on its website for anyone who’s been through abuse. If you’re interested in reading stories about healing from trauma, check out the few we picked out below: