Different Types of Traumatic Events and Trauma
PTSD was first called “shell shock” and was identified in soldiers that were fighting during World War 1. For years, veterans, their families, and their loved ones recognized the emotional toll that combat can cause. This is what is often called a “big T” trauma. We recognize today that war, childhood abuse, sexual assault, domestic violence, violent crime, accidents, terrorism, etc are traumatic events. There are also what are referred to as “little t” traumas. As I recounted to a client – and this is not original I heard it at a Trauma Informed Care Convention – a sword will kill you if you are stabbed with it but if you are stabbed with enough toothpicks you can die from that too.
Little t traumas can impact us as much as big T traumas, much depends on our own individual experiences, sensitivity levels, and other factors such as adverse childhood experiences.
If It Traumatizes You, It Is Trauma
While some people beat themselves up thinking that those that experience certain traumas “have a right” to be traumatized while others don’t, I believe that if it causes you trauma it is a traumatic event. For example, some people might experience a serious car accident and have no last emotional effects. Someone else in the car might have PTSD due to the same car accident. Neither is “wrong” or “right” they are simply reacting. We cannot choose to not be traumatized by an event.
“Exposure to traumatic experiences has always been a part of the human condition. Attacks by saber tooth tigers or twenty-first century terrorists have likely led to similar psychological responses in survivors of such violence.” – Matthew J. Friedman, MD, PhD,
National Center for PTSD
EMDR Is One of The Most Effective Treatments
EMDR works by engaging both sides of the brain at the same time.  Most of us are familiar with terms like “right brain” and “left brain.” Each hemisphere of the human brain handles different tasks. As you can see in the graphic above, the left brain is more rational and analytical. The right brain is more creative and emotional.
The theory on how the brain processes trauma is this: it does not effectively process trauma.
You have also likely heard of the “fight or flight” response to threats. If a person is threatened we react in one of three ways, fight, flight, or freeze. When the brain experiences trauma, it effects several parts of the brain including the amygdala, which is responsible for this fight/flight/freeze response . Another part of the brain, the hippocampus, helps the amygdala to file the memories away where they belong. [ 2 ] In the case of PTSD, traumatic memories are essentially “misfiled” and that is why people will re-experience traumatic events like they are watching a film play out.
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Stacey Aldridge, LCSW
Stacey is a therapist in private practice and the owner of Inspired Happiness Therapy and Wellness in Ridgeland, MS. She is trained in EMDR Basic. If you are in the state of Mississippi and are interested in seeing Stacey for therapy, please visit the Appointments page.