How Emotional Trauma Affects Everyday Interactions: Abuse

When most people think of "trauma", they think of how it's defined in the dictionary: "as a body wound or shock produced by sudden physical injury, as from violence or accident". Many people do not think of or recognize the impact that emotional trauma has on ones life. We hear stories of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and other major traumas, but rarely do our clients recognize the significance that trauma plays in a person's day to day lives. This week Imagine Hope is helping you understand trauma from a new perspective and connecting how emotional trauma can impact your life- even in the simplest ways.


Abuse at any age can produce emotional trauma. Whether a person is physically assaulted or yelled and raged at, this can produce a trauma. When a person is traumatized they link the event with a strong internal fear reaction. This stays with a person and is carried with them throughout life making them sensitive to same exact behaviors or those similar to it. As they go about life their trauma is often triggered by outside interactions that to the average person may think are no big deal. For example, if someone was spanked or beat with a belt growing up, they may be very sensitive to how their partner takes off their belt as an adult. If their partner resembles the abusers actions when taking off the belt, the victim may experience a trauma reaction. A trauma reaction is when the victim transfers the abuse experience to that moment and feels like they are transported in a time machine back to the traumatizing event. They could have a flashback, an anxiety attack, need to take a deep breath, or have a chill sent down their spine as they are triggered. This can impact their level of emotional safety with that person.

Another example is getting yelled or raged at. When you have been the recipient of this behavior, it can be traumatizing. An overwhelming rush of fear comes over you as you try to filter through how to respond. Your fight or flight instinct kicks in. As this trauma is carried with you, any raised voice can trigger a trauma reaction. The actual anger might not be the only trauma inducer though; any negative emotion could also trigger it. A victim will commonly attribute all negative emotions (sad, frustrated, scared, etc.) to equal rejection of them as a person, which can induce the trauma response.

You may notice that you have trauma reactions, but never considered yourself to be traumatized. If so it is a good idea to talk it through and look at what types of emotional trauma you might be suffering from that need healing. Each of us at Imagine Hope is skilled in dealing with these issues and can guide you on the road to recovery!

Keep reading this week to understand other trauma reactions from infidelity, teasing, and sudden loss.


Guest post written by Teri Claassen MSW, LCSW, LCAC a licensed therapist at Renewed Horizon Counseling.