What are the 3 Types of Trauma? Unpacking Personal Trauma.

Life can be incredibly unpredictable, and often times there are events that occur that can be traumatizing. Trauma can be defined as a distressing or disturbing experience that has a significant impact on an individual’s mental and emotional state.

There are various types of trauma, each with its own set of symptoms and treatment methods. In this article, we will explore the three main types of trauma and how they can impact an individual’s life.

Acute Trauma

Acute trauma is characterized by a single traumatic event, such as a car accident or physical assault. This type of trauma is typically short-lived and often resolves itself over time.


The symptoms of acute trauma can include:

  • Shock and disbelief
  • Fear and anxiety
  • Sadness and grief
  • Anger and irritability
  • Physical symptoms, such as headaches or nausea


Treatment for acute trauma usually involves therapy or counseling to help the individual work through their emotions and feelings related to the traumatic event. Psychologists may use cognitive-behavioral therapy or exposure therapy to help patients better understand and process their traumatic experience.

Chronic Trauma

Chronic trauma is characterized by ongoing, repeated exposure to a traumatic event or events. This can include physical, sexual, or emotional abuse, abandonment, or neglect.


The symptoms of chronic trauma can include:

  • Depression and anxiety
  • Difficulty trusting others or forming relationships
  • Flashbacks or nightmares
  • Low self-esteem and self-worth
  • Addictive behaviors, such as substance abuse or eating disorders


Treatment for chronic trauma involves long-term therapy or counseling. Trauma-focused therapy, such as Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), can help individuals process their traumatic experiences and develop coping skills to manage their symptoms.

Complex Trauma

Complex trauma is the most severe type of trauma and is characterized by ongoing exposure to multiple traumatic events, often in a childhood or developmental context.


The symptoms of complex trauma can be severe and long-lasting. They can include:

  • Difficulty regulating emotions and behavior
  • Chronic feelings of emptiness or dissociation
  • Self-harm or suicidal ideation
  • Persistent feelings of guilt or shame
  • Difficulty with attachment and relationships


Treatment for complex trauma is often complex and requires specialized therapy or counseling. This can include attachment-based therapy or cognitive-behavioral therapy to help individuals build coping skills and manage their symptoms.


Trauma is a complex and often misunderstood topic. Understanding the different types of trauma and their symptoms is the first step in identifying and treating trauma-related issues.


  • What is trauma?
  • Trauma can be defined as a distressing or disturbing experience that has a significant impact on an individual’s mental and emotional state.

  • What are the three types of trauma?
  • The three types of trauma are acute trauma, chronic trauma, and complex trauma.

  • How is trauma treated?
  • Treatment for trauma often includes therapy or counseling, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy or trauma-focused therapy.

  • What are the symptoms of trauma?
  • The symptoms of trauma can vary depending on the type of trauma, but can include anxiety, depression, flashbacks, and difficulty forming relationships.

  • How long does it take to recover from trauma?
  • The recovery time for trauma can vary depending on the individual and the type and severity of the trauma. It is important to seek professional help to manage symptoms and develop coping skills.


National Institute of Mental Health. (2019). Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Retrieved from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd/index.shtml

American Psychological Association. (2020). What Is Trauma?. Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/topics/trauma

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2014). Trauma-Informed Approach: Key Assumptions and Principles. Retrieved from https://store.samhsa.gov/product/SMA14-4884

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