Trauma describes the negative reactions we can have caused by very stressful, frightening or distressing events or situations.

We call these events/situations ‘Critical Incidents’, because it is the persons subjective reaction to the experience that is crucial in whether the incident can be considered ‘traumatic’.

So – there is no such thing as a definitively ‘traumatic event’, only unique and subjective traumatic reactions.

Someone experiencing trauma may often relive events through nightmares and flashbacks, and may experience feelings of isolation, irritability and guilt.

They may also have problems sleeping, such as insomnia, and find concentrating difficult. Such symptoms are often severe and persistent enough to have a significant impact on the person’s day-to-day life.

A range of disturbing reactions and behaviours can develop, which tend to fall into the following four categories:




•Social, domestic or work disruption

Trauma can affect our lives in the following ways:

Physical – Fatigue, illness, too much/little sleep, poor eating habits

Cognitive – confusion, negative thought patterns, urge to flee, suicidal ideation

Emotional – apathy, anger, anxiety/panic, depressed mood, distress

Behavioural – poor/no performance, social avoidance, negative attitude, addictions

Importantly, trauma can become apparent immediately following a critical incident, or sometimes not become apparent until years following the experience.

There are a number critical incident types which are closely associated with the development of Trauma:

  • Childhood sexual exploitation
  • Rape
  • Natural disaster
  • Hostage situations
  • Near miss/close calls
  • Domestic violence
  • Significant business/financial loss
  • Sudden bereavement
  • Divorce/relationship closure
  • Serious breach of trust
  • Bullying/harassment
  • Personal injury
  • Road traffic collision
  • Violence
  • Combat