Book Now!

Types of Trauma Experiences and Responses

What is a Traumatic Experience?

A traumatic experience is an adverse (or negative event) that can be scary and harmful to our wellbeing. 

Traumatic experiences can impact people physically, emotionally, and/or cognitively damaging. These impacts can be lifelong, and in some situations, they can be life-threatening.

What are Some Types of Traumatic Experiences?

Some types of well-known traumatic experiences include: 

  • Physical trauma 
  • S-xual trauma
  • Emotional trauma 

However, there are many other types of traumatic experiences that are not as well known. These include: 

  • Religious trauma 
  • Workplace trauma 
  • Vicarious trauma 
  • Identity-based trauma 
  • Environmental trauma

What is Workplace Trauma?

Workplace trauma happens when someone’s place of employment becomes a hostile, abusive, or dangerous environment. 

Examples of experiences that can cause workplace trauma include: 

  • Microaggressions 
  • Emotionally reactive supervisors or leaders 
  • Harassment, bullying, or violence 
  • Power dynamics 
  • Porous boundaries 
  • Chronic pressure 
  • Lack of support

What is Religious Trauma?

Religious trauma happens when someone’s religious beliefs or community becomes abusive, degrading, stressful, abusive, or damaging. 

Examples of experiences that can cause religious trauma include: 

  • Instilled shame or guilt 
  • Loss of church or religious community 
  • Isolation from loved ones, rejection, or ostracization 
  • Controlling or manipulative behaviors 
  • Physical, s-xual, or emotional abuse by religious leaders and community members

What is Vicarious Trauma?

Vicarious trauma happens when someone exposed to the traumatic experiences of other people. 

Examples of experiences that can cause vicarious trauma include: 

  • Healthcare workers exposed to people patients who are very sick, injured, or dying. 
  • Firefighters and law enforcement workers who see people in dangerous situations. 
  • Therapists, social workers, and service workers who are constantly exposed to the trauma stories of others. 
  • Media exposure to traumatic events

What is Identity-based Trauma?

Identity-based trauma happens when someone experiences physical, s-xual, or emotional abuse due to their identity. 

Examples of experiences that can cause identity-based trauma include: 

  • Racism 
  • Misogyny, Misogynoir, Femmephobia 
  • Homophobia, Transphobia, Queerphobia 
  • Ageism, Adultism 
  • Ableism 
  • Xenophobia 
  • Religious-based discrimination 
  • Other forms of identity-based bigotry

What is Environmental Trauma?

Environmental trauma happens when someone’s someone’s physical, emotional, or cognitive wellbeing is negatively impacted by harmful events in their community. 

Examples of experiences that can cause environmental trauma include: 

  • Lack of public resources 
  • Police brutality 
  • Neighborhood violence 
  • Pollution 
  • Food deserts 
  • Poverty

What is a Trauma Response?

Trauma responses are ways that our bodies respond to trauma experiences and trauma triggers. These are often automatic and intended to protect us from potentially threatening stimuli. 

Commonly-known trauma responses include: 

  • Nightmares 
  • Flashbacks 
  • Hypervigilance 
  • Intense fear or anxiety 
  • Obsessiveness 
  • Intrusive thoughts

What are Other Trauma Responses?

There are other, less well-known trauma responses that people experience. These can include: 

  • Shutting down or emotional numbness 
  • Avoidance or distraction 
  • Poor attention, concentration, or cognitive ability 
  • Hypersomnia or hyposomnia 
  • Depersonalization (feeling someone else in control) 
  • Derealization (feeling like life is not real) 
  • Victim blaming (to self or others) 
  • Increased s-xual libido, arousal, or desire 
  • Decreased s-xual libido, arousal, or desire 
  • Self-isolation or social withdrawal 
  • Risk taking behaviors 
  • Decreased empathy

This page is also part of the Roamers Therapy Glossary; a collection of mental-health related definitions that are written by our therapists.

While our offices are currently located at the South Loop neighborhood of Downtown Chicago, Illinois, we also welcome and serve clients for online therapy from anywhere in Illinois and Washington, D.C. Clients from the Chicagoland area may choose in-office or online therapy and usually commute from surrounding areas such as River North, West Loop, Gold Coast, Old Town, Lincoln Park, Lake View, Rogers Park, Logan Square, Pilsen, Bridgeport, Little Village, Bronzeville, South Shore, Hyde Park, Back of the Yards, Wicker Park, Bucktown and many more. You can visit our contact page to access detailed information on our office location.