Trauma is unanticipated exposure to or experience of an extreme event that is threatening to oneself or to another. The event elicits intense feelings of horror or helplessness such as when one experiences or views a violent act. The victim is stunned and overwhelmed by the incident. Trauma can develop into post-traumatic stress disorder: http://www.brainlinemilitary.org/content/2014/06/dsm-v-tr-criteria-for-ptsd.html
While trauma is associated with combat victims and the survivors of war-torn countries and natural disasters it can occur in social settings as well when one is threatened with, for example, job loss and or being cut off from those on whom they are emotionally dependent. Central to understanding the effect of trauma is that, in varying degrees, trauma arrests normal human development and growth. The victim becomes, to one degree or another, fixated on the event so that, untreated, it impairs their ability to learn and to interact fully with others.
Among the many excellent resources for learning more about and treating trauma is the American Trauma Society’s (AMS) website: www.amtrauma.org .
Also, “I Just Can’t Get Over It” by Aphrodite Matsakis comes highly recommended for those who want to know more about trauma symptoms and treatment. Additionally, Bessel A. van der Kolk, MD work in the area of “Developmental Trauma Disorder” (DTD) in which he describes the nexus of attachment, trauma and the brain lays the groundwork for understanding and treating trauma. Associated with Dr. van der Kolk’s work is CANY (Creative Alternatives of New York) which uses drama therapy to treat developmental trauma.
Finally, for information about treating trauma victims in Africa the extraordinary work of the Peter Calderman foundation should be mentioned as they are working with mental health professionals indigenous to the continent on the treatment of trauma. Their website is