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Trauma / PTSD / Childhood Trauma /
Complex Trauma


Trauma is mental or physical injury. Mental trauma can occur as an effect of experiencing, or witnessing, violence or life threatening events beyond one’s control. It can also occur in children who are abused, neglected or who experience the death or serious illness of a family member. The effects of trauma can be mild or severely problematic.
There is an expression in counselling, “Trauma Seeps”. It means that unprocessed mental trauma can create vulnerability that may be later triggered during stressful times and reappear -- perhaps as anxiety, depression, difficulties in relationships, or overly strong emotional reactions that create problems. People are sometimes confused as to why they become anxious or depressed in circumstances in which other people appear to cope easily – often there is an underlying trauma component.


PTSD is a trauma reaction to an event that involved helplessness in the face of threat of death or injury. Victims of war, violent crime and accidents often experience PTSD. Some of the symptoms of PTSD include hyper-arousal, flashbacks, nightmares, repeated upsetting memories, avoidance of places or people, emotional numbing, and a sense of detachment. Most people with PTSD will respond to treatment.

Childhood Trauma

Many people experience trauma as children. Some children are extremely resilient; others are deeply sensitive, fearful and vigilant and carefully interpret the words and actions of parents and others. Neglect by a parent, or simple lack of interest can have a deeply damaging effect on children that may impact them as adults. Events such as severe illness, witnessing violence, accidents, bullying, and death of a loved one, all constitute trauma and can have a profound effect, often later in life. Many times clients will present with primary problem, only to discover the roots lie in childhood trauma.

Complex Trauma

Complex trauma is similar to PTSD, however, it is an effect of witnessing or experiencing traumatic events that occurred over a protracted period of time -- for instance, if someone experienced neglect or abuse by a care giver over a long period of time, or if someone was a victim of bullying for several years at school. Such events can leave a lasting effect that can result in difficulty regulating moods, anxiety, depression, and poor social skills. People suffering from Complex Trauma respond best to Cognitive Behavioural Therapy in combination with other approaches. Clients with Complex Trauma may require “booster” sessions after their therapy has concluded, since difficult life events may continue to be triggering for them.

Please Note:

This information is for your interest only and should not be considered a diagnostic tool. If you feel you may have depression you may wish to consult with your physician. If you are experiencing suicidal or homicidal thoughts please go immediately to your nearest hospital emergency room.


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Andrea Beck, Hon BA (Spec. Psych), MSW  RSW Ontario Ciollege of Social Workers & Social Service Workers Ontario Association of Social Workers International Society for Mental Health Online