Signs and Symptoms of Psychological Trauma

Psychological trauma can be caused by exposure to traumatic events such as violence and abuse, vehicle accidents, natural disasters and war, but Delta Medical Center says that “any event that leaves someone feeling alone and overwhelmed can be considered traumatic.” This is because the details of the event itself are not what determines if it is traumatic, “it is a person’s subjective emotional experience of the event.”

Such an experience can affect a person’s cognitive, behavioral, physical and psychological well-being. Symptoms related to the trauma may come to light right away or can take as long as several weeks or years to develop. Below are some of the symptoms of psychological trauma…

Shock, Denial or Disbelief

Shock, denial or disbelief are among the most common responses to psychological trauma and often occur immediately following the event. Those affected may seem shaken and suddenly confused about their surroundings. If they are spoken to, they may struggle to respond and can seem lost in themselves while engaging in conversation.

Once these initial symptoms subside, the person may become numb or emotionally distant when asked to discuss the traumatic event, or try to avoid the topic altogether. This disconnection is a method of coping with the trauma and an indication that the person is in need of help.

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Greg Dorter, RP

Greg Dorter, RP

Greg has a master's degree in counselling psychology and is a registered psychotherapist in Ontario where he's been practicing with individuals and couples for 15 years. He specializes in evidence-based treatments such as CBT and mindfulness, and produces a variety of online self-help content you can find on ( and twitter (@GregDorter).