Psychological trauma is damage to the mind which occurs as a result of a single distressing event or events which occur over a period of time. When you experience an amount of stress which is beyond your ability to cope, trauma can occur.
It may be a single distressing experience which causes trauma. Or it may be recurring events which overwhelmed you over weeks, years, or even decades as you struggled to cope with the circumstances you find yourself in, eventually leading to serious, long-term negative consequences.
Different individuals will be affected differently by trauma, and different people will react differently to similar traumatic events. Not all people who experience a potentially traumatic event will become psychologically traumatised by that event. However, many people do develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after being exposed to a major traumatic event. This difference in the effect of the event on an individual can be attributed to factors some individuals have that enable them to cope with trauma such as resilience and an inclination to actively seek help.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) defines trauma as direct personal experience of an event that involves actual or threatened death or serious injury; threat to one’s physical integrity, witnessing an event that involves the above experience, learning about unexpected or violent death, serious harm, or threat of death, or injury experienced by a family member or close associate. Memories associated with trauma are typically explicit, coherent, and difficult to forget. The person’s response to aversive details of traumatic event involve intense fear, helplessness or horror. In children it is manifested as disorganised or agitative behaviours.