For Experts

  • Currently not a diagnosis in the DSM or ICD.
  • Trauma can be (a) physical, meaning an injury to living tissue caused by an extrinsic physical, biological, or radiological agent, or (b) psychological, meaning a disordered psychic or behavioural state resulting from severe mental or emotional stress.
  • In the mental health context, trauma is a person’s experience during an event so distressing to them that it overwhelms them emotionally. Severe psychological trauma is viewed as the etiology (cause) of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder.
  • A person can experience physical trauma without also experiencing psychological trauma, as in minor physical trauma that causes a minor laceration, sprain, skin infection, or sunburn. On the other hand, severe physical trauma that causes unstable multi-organ system polytrauma usually is associated with psychological trauma. It has been hypothesized that physical trauma to the central nervous system, such as penetrating or blunt force traumatic brain injury, can also contribute causally to psychiatric sequelae like Posttraumatic Stress Disorder.
  • Psychologically stressful experiences are not necessarily traumatic. People can feel stressed without experiencing trauma.
  • Injury means an acute state, not chronic states that can occur as a result of a physical or psychological trauma. However, colloquially injury often is used to describe a chronic state arising from an acute injury, for example, an operational stress injury.

For General Public

  • Currently not a diagnosis in the DSM or ICD.
  • “Trauma” is something that causes physical, emotional, spiritual, or psychological harm. In the mental health context, trauma is a person’s own experience during an event so distressing to them that it overwhelms them emotionally.
  • In the mental health context, psychological trauma is viewed as the cause of a mental disorder like Posttraumatic Stress Disorder.
  • Psychologically stressful experiences are not necessarily traumatic. People can be feel stressed without experiencing trauma.

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