Types of Trauma

Trauma can be experienced in a number of different settings. Settings might include home life, at school, the work place, in the wider community or in a war zone.

Whether an event is deemed traumatic is defined by the ‘subjective experience’ of it rather than the event itself.

We have provided a breakdown of experiences which might typify a traumatic experience.

There are two main categories of trauma. Types 1 and type 2.

Type 1 Trauma
Type 1 refers to single-incident traumas which are unexpected and come out of the blue. They can be referred to as big T trauma, shock or acute trauma. A condition related to big T trauma or Type 1 trauma is Post Traumatic Stress Response(PTSR).

Examples of type 1 trauma might include:

Severe illness or injury
Violent assault
Sexual assault
Traumatic loss
Mugging or robbery
Being a victim of or witness to violence
Witnessing a terrorist attack
Witnessing a natural disaster
Road accident
Military combat incident
Psychiatric hospitalisation
Medical trauma
Post suicide attempt trauma
Life threatening illness or diagnosis


Type 2 Trauma

Complex trauma describes trauma which may have been experienced as part of childhood or early stages of development.

Repetitive trauma refers to trauma which has been repeated over a period of time and is often part of an interpersonal relationship where someone might feel trapped emotionally or physically. They may also feel as if they have been coerced or powerless to prevent the trauma.

A condition related to type 2 trauma is Complex Post Traumatic Stress Response (cPTSR)

Examples of type 2 trauma include:

Sibling abuse
Childhood emotional abuse
Domestic violence
Emotional neglect and attachment trauma
Verbal abuse
Domestic physical abuse
Long term misdiagnosis of a health problem
Bullying at home at school or in a work setting
Sexual abuse
Emotional abuse
Physical neglect
Overly strict upbringing sometimes religious
Historical, Collective or Intergenerational Trauma
This trauma is characterized by psychological or emotional difficulties which can affect different communities, cultural groups and generations. Adaptive coping patterns can be passed inter-generationally. Examples might include:

Forcible removal from a family or community
Vicarious or Secondary Trauma
This type of trauma can occur when someone speaks to someone who has experienced a trauma or witnessed a trauma first hand. The person listening can experience secondary trauma and experience symptoms experienced by the person explaining the trauma.

Little t trauma
Little t trauma is less prominent and discussed less often. Little t traumas are experiences which are part of the everyday and are an expected part of life. They may however be very traumatic. Examples might include:

Loss of a loved one (not traumatic bereavement)
Moving to a new house
Losing a job