There are typically two types of trauma we speak of in the therapy world, big T and little t trauma (although people have debates on this language).
When we think of trauma we think of it in two categories (this is a little old school but alas, it’s what we’re taught).
- Big life events, ie. car crash, a natural disaster, war, an accident, a violent event etc
- Long term low level stressful happenings; ie. living in poverty and not knowing where your next meal will come from, existing as a minority having racist things said to you, being followed around a store, getting bullied in school and not having any friends.
Both are bad, both affect people, both have long lasting harmful effects. One can be commonly diagnosed as PTSD (what war veterans are typically diagnosed with). When you are diagnosed with PTSD it means that you life, or bodily integrity was threatened. It means that you could’ve died, perhaps you were close to dying or almost died. Additionally it means that your life moving forward has been affected, so maybe you have nightmares about the event, maybe you avoid certain situations that remind you of the event, maybe you were never the same. For example, I was scrolling on instagram the other day and saw this girls profile who survived the White Island Volcano blast – I got lost in a rabbit hole. Its fascinating and I won’t go into it but trust me it’s crazy. Anyways, this girl was on a family vacation, this volcano basically erupted and she got burns on over 75% of her body, her dad and sister died and she had to wear a compression garment for 2 years. She has nightmares, her life will never be the same, flashbacks etc. This girl, has PTSD. Her life was threatening, she is not functioning the same as she used to and it was one major event (rather than many smaller ones). I’m really breaking this down for succinctness and clarity (trust me we spent 2, 3 hour classes talking about this) but I hope everyone gets the point.
CPTSD – so this is a newer thing and honestly we haven’t really covered it in school/it’s not officially in the DSM-V (the holy grail of therapy) but like all things mental health there are always new diagnosis being added and taken away so keep a look out for this one esepcially after COVID. But CPTSD would be classified as a little t trauma – lower level, non-threats to your life, but constant and this is the key. So imagine you go to school and every week the school bully does something to you, pushes you down the stairs, steals your library book, makes fun of your clothes in front of other people (yes these are things that have happened to me) for a year. Then you go to high school and for four years every year don’t get asked to a school dance, when all your friends do, don’t get asked on dates, when everyone else does, get told you’re not beautiful, get made fun of for your hair, your clothes, the way you talk, everything (these are a mix of examples). So you can obviously see how being subject to his kind of stuff for 4-7 years could be harmful and while your life wasn’t threatened you definitely when through some turmoil and there’s no way you weren’t affected. Additionally you might still suffer some of the same side effects of PTSD like:
- Sleep disturbance
- Might turn to substances to cope
- Shame/guilt/emotional disregulation
So, I hope you guys get the point, but essentially there are two types of trauma, both are bad, in one type your life is threatened, in the other it’s not. However, it doesn’t discount one or the other and both are issues that therapy can help with!
As always comment if you want more deets or info. I hope you guys like the new content 🙂