Monday, February 4, 2008

What is Trauma?

Last week, we talked about some operationalized "definitions" of trauma, in terms of how the medical, psychological, and psychiatric professions have conceived of "PTSD" or "Posttraumatic stress disorder." But if post-traumatic stress disorder is the "definition" of trauma, what does the "T" in PTSD stand for? What is "trauma" anyway?

How can "trauma" seem to refer to the cause and the consequences?

So people were wondering what constitutes a trauma... and how PTSD and trauma could be referred to using the same word.

"Trauma" refers to both an "injury/wound" and the "conditions caused by this" (for physical and psychological "injuries").

The first known publication of the word "Trauma" in English was in 1693 in Blancard's Physical Dictionary. The definition was "a wound from an external cause."

The Oxford English Dictionary Offers This Definition of Trauma (and "traumatic")
1. Pathology. A wound, or external bodily injury in general; also the condition caused by this; traumatism.

2. Psychoanalysis and Psychiatry. A psychic injury, especially one caused by emotional shock the memory of which is repressed and remains unhealed; an internal injury, especially to the brain, which may result in a behavioural disorder of organic origin. Also, the state or condition so caused.

* * * * *

An Extensive List of Links to Definitions of TRAUMA on the Web

Most definitions focus on an "injury" or "wound" and many definitions make specific reference to the body, for example "a physical injury" or "an injury to the body."

Not as many mention emotional, psychological, or spiritual traumas, and many of the definitions focusing on bodily injury do not mention the corresponding injury to the self/mind/emotions that can accompany physical injury. Many of these are medical sites, which could account for some of the skewing towards physically-focused definitions.

Some definitions stipulate that it is "caused by an external force." How do you think this definition deals with suicide or self-cutting?

A rare few implicate "violence" as the cause of trauma. Do you think violence has to be present in order for trauma to occur?

How do you define trauma? What do you think of these definitions? Have you read other definitions?

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