Despite how common it is, trauma is a complex experience that affects everybody in different ways. There are countless types, causes, and symptoms of trauma, and no two cases are alike. When you combine this complex nature of trauma with society’s stigma about mental health, you get an abundance of misinformation about what trauma is and who it affects.
Learning more about trauma—and mental health in general—is the first step toward seeking help and moving forward with your life. Discover the truth behind some of the most common misconceptions about trauma and its effects with this guide.
Trauma = PTSD
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a well-known mental health disorder that stems from life-threatening or repeated traumatic experiences. However, not all individuals who experience trauma will develop PTSD. There are other mental health disorders, such as acute stress disorder, that can stem from trauma. Furthermore, some individuals can navigate their trauma—with the support of friends, family, and mental health providers—without experiencing a mental health disorder.
Trauma Affects You Right Away
Sometimes, the effects of trauma arise immediately after the traumatic event. However, some people don’t show trauma symptoms until weeks or even months after the experience. This is particularly true for chronic trauma disorders such as PTSD. Individuals who seem fine after a traumatic event can experience delayed PTSD, especially if they experience a new trigger in the form of another traumatic event.
Trauma Only Occurs After a Life-Threatening Event
Many well-known examples of trauma involve life-threatening experiences such as military combat, serious car accidents, or armed assault. However, not all traumatic experiences are life-threatening. Despite what common myths about trauma say, some traumatic experiences don’t involve violence at all. For example, a rough divorce can have a significant and negative impact on your finances, security, social life, and sense of worth. While divorce doesn’t pose a direct threat, it can drastically lower your quality of life, making it a traumatic experience.