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Types of Trauma


Trauma and traumatic events can happen in many different ways. Below are some definitions and examples of how trauma can happen.

Single Event:

    • This type of trauma only happens once. An example of this is a car accident.

Chronic Event:

    • This type of trauma is a series of events that happens over a period of time. An example of this is the COVID pandemic.

Developmental Trauma:

    • This type of trauma happens in early childhood. It is usually chronic. An example of this is having cancer and being in the hospital for many months at 5 years old.

Relational Trauma:

    • This type of trauma is caused by someone you have a relationship with. An example of this is being physically abused by a parent or caregiver.

Complex Trauma:

    • This is when someone has many different types of trauma events. An example of this is someone whose parents divorced when they were kids, saw a family member get into a bad car accident, and was physically abused by a caregiver when they were a teenager.

Intergenerational Trauma:

    • This is when trauma responses are passed down across generations by people who experienced a trauma. This can include a trauma that effects one individual, multiple family members, or an entire community. Examples of this are slavery and the Holocaust.

Specific examples of traumatic events include:

    • Natural disasters like hurricanes, floods, or tornados.Cartoon of things that might traumatize people, extreme weather, abuse, war, medical emergency, accidents.
    • Accidents like car accidents or fires.
    • Abuse including physical, mental, or sexual.
    • Neglect.
    • Death of a loved one or close friend.
    • Medical events like surgery or chronic illness.
    • School events like bullying or school shootings.
    • Community events like riots or high crime levels.
    • Interpersonal events like domestic violence.
    • Wars and genocide like the Holocaust.
    • Human trafficking.

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This information was developed by the Autism Services, Education, Resources, and Training Collaborative (ASERT). For more information, please contact ASERT at 877-231-4244 or info@PAautism.org. ASERT is funded by the Bureau of Supports for Autism and Special Populations, PA Department of Human Services.