Trauma Models

Trauma can be defined as an exceptionally stressful experience that results in extreme emotional shock and causes long-term emotional and psychological consequences. The
individual perception of the event is what characterizes it as traumatic. The event itself may or may not be traumatic: the experience is individual and dependent on factors such as support, ego strength, coping skills, and resilience.

A traumatic event is unexpected and not preventable. It is one for which the person is not prepared. If the person has support from people who care about her and can return to a state of emotional stability after an event, the experience may be characterized as stress, rather than emotional trauma. However, if the person gets stuck in a state of intense, disturbing, and unresolvable emotions, it is emotional trauma. 

When a person experiences emotional trauma he has physical, emotional, and mental symptoms. Victims of sexual abuse often show these symptoms as warning signs prior to the disclosure. Following disclosure, some symptoms may continue throughout the victim's life. Physical symptoms include disturbances in appetite, sleep, energy, and sexuality, and unexplained physical symptoms of illnessEmotional symptoms usually occur in the short-term, and these may include depression, anxiety, panic, fear, anger, irritability, numbness, and lowered self-esteemEmotional and psychological symptoms may be long-term consequences to the abuse, with disruptions in relationships, problem-solving, decision-making, concentration, and memory. Many mental health disorders are associated with childhood sexual abuse (e.g., mood disorders, personality disorders, impulsive disorders).  

The person will experience posttraumatic stress symptoms, and, if the trauma is severe and the person lacks adequate coping and supportive resources, he or she may suffer ongoing PTSD symptoms. The person will continue to reexperience the event in his or her mind with intense emotional reactions to the memories. Thoughts about the event may intrude into daily life. The person has flashbacks or nightmares. He may experience heightened emotional responses, grief reactions, and increased arousal, such as hypervigilance. Trauma responses result in a range of distressing effects on behaviors and relationships.
Trauma models of sexual abuse were developed by researchers and clinicians who wanted to better understand the dynamics of sexual abuse and its effects. The best known model, Traumagenic Dynamics, was developed by Finkelhor and Browne (1985, 1986). Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is another model that conceptualizes the effects of the trauma of sexual abuse. PTSD was originally used to explain the post-trauma complex of symptoms demonstrated by combat veterans in World War I. James (1990) developed the Traumagenic States model to explain the psychological consequences of trauma on the developing child.  


Social Media