What is Trauma?


The google dictionary describes trauma as:

  1. A medical term meaning physical injury.
  2. A deeply disturbing or distressing event.

What is complex trauma??

The SMART online training defines complex trauma as any single, ongoing or cumulative experience which:

  1. Evokes a physiological or psychological set of responses
  2. Is a response to a perceived threat
  3. Overwhelms our capacity to cope
  4. Feels and /or is outside of our control

The Adults Surviving Child Abuse organisation writes that one of the ways complex trauma can occur, is from experiences of childhood abuse including neglect and witnessing Family violence and dysfunction.


How does trauma affect us?

I know I keep referring back to the SMART online training but the Australian Childhood Foundation by all means are not the only trauma informed organisation. There appears to be a growing momentum and instances of research backing these claims from all over the world.

The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta and Kaiser Permanente in San Diego have created the ACE study (Adverse Childhood Experiences) which is ongoing collaborative research in to the culmination (collection) of childhood trauma and the links to social consequences and/or inequalities and long term health conditions.

They have created a survey, which I have added to the menu, which asks you to give yourself a point for every adverse childhood experience you have had. The research findings have so far indicated the higher your ACE score the more likely you were to suffer from a range of social inequalities and long term health conditions such as obesity and chronic lung conditions.



Here is a youtube clip referring to the ACE’s research I thought was really interesting

The ACE study identified a few areas of social disadvantage as well as chronic health conditions experienced by those who have an ACE score of 4 or more. I will look at these in detail in my next blog, but some of these areas are adult alcoholism, chronic depression, being victim or perpetrator of domestic violence, substance use and abuse, lack of employment or trans-generational unemployment, liver disease, smoking addiction to name just a few. All of these issues relate to inequalities in relation to health.

A team of neuro-scientists and pediatricians began research in to toxic stress and how it affects the developing brain of a child, around the same time as the ACE research. The research team noticed that not all children who had experienced the same traumatic childhood events, had the same negative or severe reactions to it and developed a questionnaire aimed at resilience and protective factors that could help to explain why some children were so adversely affected while others weren’t. In my opinion it also relates to the age old argument around nature verses nurture and i think with this, nurture definitely plays a big part in relation to protective factors.

Here is the link – please scroll down the page, the resilience questionnaire appears after the pictures of the graphs.


My protective factors are 10. What are yours?