Trauma may be closer than you think

Nataliia Kostenko, MS in Psychology January 19, 2023

The Wounded Deer, 1946 by Frida Kahlo.

Trauma is a psychological response to an event or experience that was overwhelming, frightening, and life-threatening. Trauma isn’t just experienced by soldiers in combat zones or victims of violent crimes. It can happen anytime and anywhere, including at home with your family members. Although we can’t control what happens to us in life, we can control how we react to events that are out of our control. The way we respond to trauma can have lasting effects on our relationships, work performance, and overall well-being for years after the traumatic event occurs.

Anima helps you to identify how damaging a traumatic event was for you personally. It helps you to measure your nervous system activation and define whether you are safe from developing any major mental health disorder, such as depression, anxiety disorder, or post-traumatic stress disorder.

What defines a traumatic event?

Symptoms of trauma include shock, denial, mood swings, and hypervigilance. Trauma is often caused by single events, such as wars or violent assaults, but it can also be caused by sustained stress over time, such as bullying or childhood neglect. People who experience trauma often have difficulty dealing with their emotions and behaviors after their traumatic event has occurred due to the severity of their emotional response and feelings of fear and vulnerability following the event.

The most common traumatic events include:

  • Death of a loved one
  • Serious injury or illness (e.g., car accident)а
  • Violence (e.g., physical assault)
  • Sexual assault or abuse

You’re not alone. You may be surprised to learn how many people have experienced trauma in their lives:

  • The National Comorbidity Survey found that 60 70 percent of Americans have experienced some kind of trauma in their lives, whether it’s a single event or a series of events [3].
  • The Centers for Disease Control reports that 1 out of every 3 women who are sexually active will be raped at some point in their lifetime [4]; 1 out of 6 men will experience an attempted or completed rape before turning 18; 10% of the US population has been raped or suffered an attempted rape.
  • The National Child Traumatic Stress Network reports that about 1 out of 12 children and adolescents in the United States experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which is characterized by intense fear, helplessness, or horror after exposure to intense psychological trauma such as physical abuse or witnessing violence directed toward another person [5].

How does the brain react during a traumatic event?

During a traumatic event, your brain is on high alert and in survival mode. It focuses on the present rather than the future; this is called “the now.” In this state of hypervigilance, your body and mind are focused on staying alive at all costs. You’re not thinking about tomorrow or next week; you’re only thinking about how to get out of danger right now—and how much it hurts! When the threat is over, however, you may feel completely different: numb and disconnected from what just happened.

What are some common symptoms of trauma?

The symptoms of trauma are often similar to those of other mental health conditions. Common symptoms include:

  • Flashbacks – flashbacks may occur when you’re awake, asleep, or in a dissociative state (dissociation is when you feel disconnected or numb). You may feel like the event is happening again and become frightened by this.
  • Nightmares – nightmares can be vivid and scary, especially when they involve reliving the traumatic event. The content of your trauma-related nightmares will depend on what actually happened during the trauma; for example, if it involved violence, then you might dream about being attacked by someone else, or if there was a fire, then you might dream about being trapped inside a burning building.
  • Anxiety and fear – feeling anxious or fearful even though nothing dangerous is happening now.
  • Feeling numb or detached from yourself – this can make it difficult to get through your day because it feels like everything around you isn’t real (known as derealization).

Are there any risk factors for trauma?

Trauma is a risk factor for mental illness and physical health problems [1]. It’s important to know the signs of trauma, as it can be difficult to identify on your own or with others. If you are experiencing or have experienced trauma, it’s best to seek help through the following steps:

What’s the best way to overcome trauma?

If you’re dealing with trauma and its aftermath, it’s important to remember that there are many ways to recover. A therapist can help you explore the cause of your trauma, develop coping techniques, and work towards improving your mental health. Meditation, exercise, and relaxation techniques like yoga or meditation classes—all of these things can help you reduce stress levels and relieve anxiety or depression symptoms. Cognitive behavioral therapy helps people who experience trauma by teaching them how to interpret their emotions in a more positive way. Medication may also be prescribed by a physician if necessary.

If there’s one thing one should learn about the recovery process, is that self-care is crucial; taking care of yourself is essential for managing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Self-care means doing things that make us happy every day—whether it’s going out on Saturday nights with friends after work or simply sitting down at home reading an old favorite book before bed each night—the point is to find some sort of personal pleasure in life again!

Trauma can happen suddenly, but it can be prevented by taking care of your overall mental health. If you are experiencing symptoms of trauma, talk to a professional as soon as possible. There are many types of professionals that can help with this—you might have to do some research to find one that works best for you. Your local Mental Health America chapter is another resource for finding a therapist near you and making an appointment if necessary.

If possible, try to avoid triggers that remind you of the event (for example: visiting the place where it happened). It may be helpful if friends, family members, or other loved ones surround themselves with positive influences and reminders of their own self-worth in order to lift their spirits during difficult times.

Everyone has a uniquely different nervous system. Therefore, one can be highly sensitive to traumatic events and relatively easily get sick of them [2]. Can you think that you are safe from PTSD when you are not? Anima shows you the answers to your questions and helps you to understand how to deal with them.

This app is designed to help you determine whether the event or situation you have experienced is potentially traumatic. You could have experienced any events that may have resulted in emotional distress and psychobiological activation of your stress response, especially if you are young or the event was unexpected.


  1. Cohen, S., Murphy, M. L., & Prather, A. A. (2019). Ten surprising facts about stressful life events and disease risk. Annual review of psychology, 70, 577.
  1. Bonanno, G. A., Westphal, M., & Mancini, A. D. (2011). Resilience to loss and potential trauma. Annual review of clinical psychology, 7(1), 511-535.
  1. Benjet, C., Bromet, E., Karam, E. G., Kessler, R. C., McLaughlin, K. A., Ruscio, A. M., … & Koenen, K. C. (2016). The epidemiology of traumatic event exposure worldwide: results from the World Mental Health Survey Consortium. Psychological medicine, 46(2), 327-343.
  1. Basile, K. C., Smith, S. G., Breiding, M., Black, M. C., & Mahendra, R. R. (2014). Sexual violence surveillance: Uniform definitions and recommended data elements. Version 2.0.
  1. Briggs, E. C., Greeson, J. K., Layne, C. M., Fairbank, J. A., Knoverek, A. M., & Pynoos, R. S. (2012). Trauma exposure, psychosocial functioning, and treatment needs of youth in residential care: Preliminary findings from the NCTSN Core Data Set. Journal of Child & Adolescent Trauma, 5(1), 1-15.