Online Counseling for Washington State
Trauma is the experience of severe psychological distress following any terrible or life-threatening event or series of events. Small ‘t’ traumas tend to be overlooked by the individual who has experienced the difficulty. This is sometimes due to the tendency to rationalize the experience or incident as 'normal' and therefore shame oneself for any reaction that could be construed as an over-reaction or being “dramatic.” Individuals who have experienced small 't' trauma may develop emotional disturbances such as extreme anxiety, anger, sadness, guilt, shame or PTSD. Individuals may experience ongoing problems with sleep or physical pain, and having difficulty in their personal and professional relationships.
Small ‘t’ Traumas
Small ‘t’ traumas are experiences or incidents that exceed our capacity to cope and cause a disruption in emotional well-being and functioning. These distressing events are not life threatening, but may be better described as 'ego-threatening' due to the individual feeling a sense of helplessness. Some examples include:
- Interpersonal conflict
- Abrupt or extended relocation
- Legal trouble
- Financial worries or difficulty
Large ‘T’ Traumas
A large 'T' trauma is defined as an extraordinary and significant event that leaves the individual feeling powerless and feeling as if they have little control in their environment. Some examples include:
- Terrorist attack
- Sexual assault
- Incidents in military combat
- Car or plane accident
- Natural disaster
With large 'T' traumas, the individual tends to more overtly and decisively engage in actions that are classified as avoidant. Individuals may deliberately avoid phone calls from investigators, bury clothing or memorabilia associated with the trauma, or avoid crowded places. Individuals who have experienced just one large ‘T’ trauma is often enough to cause severe distress and interfere with their daily functioning, and the effect is intensified the longer avoidance behaviors continue without therapeutic intervention.
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