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Explaining Trauma

What is Trauma?

Trauma can be defined as a physiological, psychological, and emotional response that results after having witnessed an event or accident in which the person suffered a deeply distressing or disturbing experience. Some examples of these events can be, a car accidents, physical abuse during childhood, emotional negligence, living with alcoholic parents, witnessing domestic violence, being attacked by a stranger, etc.

What are some of the symptoms of the trauma?

Some of the symptoms may include: Irritability or anger; persistent feelings of sadness and despair; physical symptoms such as nausea and headaches; inability to concentrate, intense feelings of guilt; isolation; nightmares; intrusive thoughts of trauma; nightmares, hypervigilance, etc.

Important Note: If you identify with many of the symptoms described here, it does not mean that you have trauma. It is important to consider that the symptoms of trauma are very severe and cause impairment of daily functioning. In other words, a person with trauma would not be able to perform daily tasks such as shopping at the supermarket, sleeping more than 8 hours a day, maintaining friendships, etc. In the same way, please be aware that it is my professional opinion to describe trauma in three levels: mild, moderate, and severe.

Why is it important to know about the trauma?

• Many scientific investigations show that the trauma of parents can affect the development of children.

• For example, several studies conducted with people who were Holocaust survivors (a historical event in which many individuals of Jewish faith were murdered during the 1930s and 1940s by the German Nazis) demonstrated how the trauma of the parents [survivors] was transmitted to their children. Thus, if the trauma is not addressed, it is possible that the trauma is passed on to children from one generation to another generation creating a life cycle in which the trauma is transmitted through the years. This is known as transgenerational trauma.

• Another example is my study (2016) (conducted with a sample of Mexican Americans) based on the understanding of Secondary Traumatic Stress (a trauma that is transmitted to another person through listening to trauma narratives frequently), showed that individuals who had more frequent contact with survivors of trauma, described higher symptoms of trauma (Marquez, 2016).

• Another study by Leslie & Cook (2015) showed that mothers who had been through trauma tended to use stricter, harsh, and inflexible parenting style techniques and as a result their adolescent children tended to develop depression.

• Lastly, a large set of studies called the ACE's (Adverse Childhood Experiences) studies showed that trauma during childhood is related to developing harmful behaviors and even leading to physical health problems (e.g., diabetes, blood pressure problems, heart problems, etc.).

For these and many more reasons, it is important that, we consider the importance of how trauma can affect our lives and the lives of our children (or others around us).

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