Causes & Symptoms of Psychological Trauma

Accidents, illness, and the death of a loved one are only a few of the causes that could lead to psychological trauma. As people face heartbreak or highly stressful situations, they feel major emotions that could lead to significant mental health conditions.

If you feel that you or a loved one recently faced a psychological trauma, it is important to understand what it means, the symptoms of trauma, and how to help someone who is struggling.

What is psychological trauma?

Psychological trauma is the resulting mental effects of perils or risks to a person’s lifestyle, wellbeing, or health. It typically occurs following a majorly stressful event or a dangerous situation. These traumatic events may lead to strong emotions, recurring memories or flashbacks, and high levels of anxiety.

As an emotional response, psychological trauma can overwhelm a person and negatively impact their ability to cope with the situation.

There are three types of psychological trauma to be aware of, including:

  • Acute trauma: This results from an individual incident and leads to emotions that are centered around that one event.
  • Chronic trauma: Victims of this type of trauma faced repeated exposure such as frequent domestic abuse, continued violence, or other prolonged experiences.
  • Complex trauma: When someone faces a variety of traumatic events that are generally personal, invasive, or damaging.

Examples of psychological trauma

What causes psychological trauma? Everyone reacts differently to their experiences, but there are some specific types of events that are more likely to trigger the psychological effects of trauma.

Death of a loved one

Among the most common examples of psychological trauma is the loss of a family member, friend, or loved one. Whether their death is accidental, results from disease, comes with old age, or is by suicide, the people around that person may feel traumatized by the event. This occurs as the connection to that person ends and the individual is left recognizing that there is something suddenly missing from their life.


People who have experienced violence could include anyone from a rape victim to someone who fought overseas in a war. It could also be someone who was mugged, verbally abused, or attacked because of their race, gender, or sexual orientation. In many cases, these types of psychological trauma may lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as well.

Ended relationship

Divorce, separation, and the end of other long-term relationships could spark strong feelings, leaving one or both parties subjected to trauma. Whether it was a romantic connection, a friendship, or another close family member, losing any type of relationship can have long-lasting effects.


Both mothers and fathers can experience postpartum depression but there are other forms of psychological trauma that could occur following childbirth. This could be from the pain or stress that comes during these emotional situations. The trauma could also follow a stillborn birth or the death of a newborn.

Car accident

As one of the most frequent causes of psychological trauma, there are more than 5.25 million car accidents across the nation every year. A significant number of these lead the victim to have both physical and emotional effects from the shock or stress they felt at that moment.

Injury or disability

Pain and injury are major triggers that make events traumatic, which can be felt time and time again long after the situation occurred. In many instances, this can lead to chronic pain and long-term disability.


Up to 25% of people who face illnesses like heart attack, stroke, and cancer will develop psychological trauma from the experience. The combination of fear paired with the physical health-related symptoms makes it difficult to forget and overcome these intense emotions.

Natural disasters

Every year, people living across the United States face major disasters that include fires, tornados, hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, and more. These events destroy homes, ravage communities, and take thousands of lives annually.

Childhood trauma

The effects of childhood trauma on psychological functioning can last for the course of a person’s entire life. It could stem from any other example on this list and be crippling to a child if not properly treated as soon as possible.


While this tends to take place because of other mental health conditions, self-inflicted psychological trauma such as self-harm or attempted suicide is also common.

Psychological trauma symptoms

The psychological effects of trauma can either be instant or ongoing. People who face these experiences could have both emotional and physical symptoms. Doing a psychological trauma assessment is a helpful way to determine the effect it is having on a person’s day-to-day wellbeing.

The most common signs of psychological trauma are:

  • Intense sadness
  • Hopelessness
  • Depression
  • Fear or anxiety
  • Guilt or shame
  • Social isolation
  • Anger or mood swings
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Shock or disbelief
  • Denial
  • Numb or disconnected

Support for victims of psychological trauma

Knowing how to treat psychological trauma is essential to helping a person live a full, enjoyable life after a difficult experience. While there is no specific cure for psychological trauma, these strong feelings and emotions can be managed through therapy, medication, and other effective practices.

If you or a loved one needs support for psychological trauma, the team OC Specialty Health & Hospitals are here to help.

Contact our team today at 949-900-8426 or 877-467-2223 to learn more about our programs.

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