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What are the 4 Common Types of Trauma?

A deeply distressing event can often lead to short- or long-term trauma. This distressing event can be physical, psychological, or both. It may be the result of a car accident, sexual assault, or military combat. It appears in many different forms and can have long-term consequences.

In the United States alone, it’s estimated that 65% of adults have experienced at least one traumatic event in their lifetime.

The effects of trauma are not always easy to notice. Sometimes people may not realize they are suffering from the emotional toll that trauma has taken on them until it’s too late. That’s why it’s important to know the types of trauma and what they can mean for you and your loved ones.

Here are the most common types of trauma:

1. Acute Stress Disorder (ASD)

ASD is a normal and typically short-lived response to a traumatic event that may have caused fear, danger, or uncertainty. It can happen when someone has witnessed something terrible, like a natural disaster or the death of a loved one. This response includes physical symptoms like increased heart rate, muscle tension, or sweating. It also includes psychological symptoms like flashbacks and nightmares, trouble sleeping or concentrating, anger or irritability, or avoiding anything that reminds you of the event.

Treatment for ASD includes getting emotional support from family and friends. In some cases, medication may be prescribed to help. ASD usually subsides after a few weeks or months.

2. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to a terrifying event or ordeal. PTSD is different from ASD because it is more severe and refers to a longer-term response to trauma, including all of the symptoms of ASD and more intrusive thoughts about the event and persistent feelings of anxiety related to it.

These feelings may be triggered by things that are reminiscent of past trauma. It's common among military personnel and first responders, and it can also happen to people who have experienced sexual assault, violence, car accidents, or other frightening events. PTSD and has been linked to the development of depression and anxiety disorders. People living with PTSD may also have trouble sleeping, maintaining relationships, and concentrating on daily tasks.

3. Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD)

Complex post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD) is a form of PTSD that can develop in people with prolonged or repeated childhood trauma rather than one acute event. It can cause debilitating anxiety and depression and disrupt the person's ability to function in their everyday life.

People with CPTSD may experience intense guilt or shame, self-destructive behaviors such as drug or alcohol abuse, constantly feel on guard or hyper-vigilant and have difficulty feeling close to other people.

It can be difficult to diagnose CPTSD because the symptoms are often similar to developmental problems like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, and conduct disorder.

4. Continuous Traumatic Brain Injury (CTBI)

Continuous Traumatic Brain Injury (CTBI) is used to describe injuries sustained from repetitive brain injury or TBIs. It is often caused by contact sports, occupation, and falls.

Symptoms of CTBI include confusion, concussion-like symptoms, memory loss, difficulty concentrating and paying attention, speech and language impairments, difficulty with coordination and balance, being easily startled or confused by sudden noise or bright lights, even sleep disturbances.

A CTBI can cause severe long-term cognitive and emotional problems if not treated properly.


It's important to know what type of trauma you or someone you love has suffered because it will affect how they recover. The wrong treatment can make conditions worse, and not all types of treatments are right for everyone. For this reason, it's essential to get an accurate diagnosis from a qualified mental health professional who has experience treating trauma.


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