What is Trauma?

Trauma is a response to an experience or series of experiences that cause psychological and physiological distress. Traumatic experiences range from sexual or physical assault and abuse, psychological abuse, accidents, war, losing a loved one, natural disasters, grief, and more .You may have been involved in the event directly where harm was caused to you or indirectly by having witnessed someone else being subjected to harm.

The Trauma Tree serves as a metaphor for the ways in which trauma may stay with us throughout our lives.

The image of this trauma tree shows some of the causes of trauma, shown in the tree's roots. These adverse life experiences are often the unseen or unspoken aspects of trauma.

However, trauma is not necessarily an event that happens to us but what happens inside of us if our nervous system is unable to process and make sense of an experience. The events in themselves can affect each of us very differently. Trauma occurs when our nervous system is dysregulated and unable to return to equilibrium.

Trauma can manifest as many things. This is shown here in the leafless branches of the trauma tree. It may include somatic and body-based responses, emotional distress, flashbacks, nightmares, and dissociation.


Free resources that help people learn about trauma and start to heal.

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