Understanding Trauma

Who experiences trauma?

Research in the last few decades has demonstrated that traumatic experiences are extremely prevalent in all demographic groups. Certain groups are more likely to experience certain kinds of trauma, such as child abuse, sexual abuse or religious or racial oppression and violence. Some groups are also more likely to experience more traumatic experiences over the course of their lifetime. However, trauma can and does affect people of any background.

Gun violence can lead to trauma among survivors, witnesses, family members, first responders, health and social service providers, community members, and the larger public.


What are the signs and symptoms of trauma?

Different people may have extremely different–even opposite–responses to the same traumatic event, and an individual’s responses may change over time. Trauma may manifest differently depending on demographic factors such as age, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual identity, and religion. Signs and symptoms of trauma can include denial, detachment, dissociation, shock, anger, hyperarousal, irritability, flashbacks, difficulty sleeping, and loss of memory or heightened memory of a specific traumatic event. 


What are the long-term effects of trauma?

If not addressed, trauma can contribute to severe, life-limiting conditions including depression, anxiety, suicidality, substance abuse, heart disease and certain cancers.


What is secondary trauma?

People who listen to, read about or watch media coverage of others’ traumatic experiences can develop their own traumatic responses. This is known as secondary trauma, vicarious trauma, burnout, or compassion fatigue.


Learn more:


logo for SAMHSATrauma and Trauma-Informed Care
from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration


logo for NCTSNSecondary Trauma
from the National Child Traumatic Stress Network


logo for the CDCThe Long-Term Effects of Trauma
from the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACES)