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Experiencing trauma at any age can be a harrowing experience that can inform someone’s worldview and mental health. However, trauma is often discussed in broad strokes, so there can be a lot of confusion around what does or does not constitute a traumatic experience. This is birthed from the false idea that there is only one kind of trauma. There are two different kinds of traumatic experiences that someone can face in their lives. Both need to be addressed personally and professionally when it comes to someone’s own mental health. The two categories of traumatic experiences are dictated by either “Trauma,” spelled with a capital “T,” or “trauma” with a lowercase “t.” While this may seem like a small difference, how one classifies and spells their trauma can help inform the proper help and coping mechanisms that someone may need in order to begin to work through their experiences mentally. 

Addressing “Trauma”

“Trauma,” spelled with a capital “T,” includes the most common images that someone may think of when they are talking about a traumatic event. These are things like natural disasters or being caught in violent situations. These “Traumas” are often related to life-or-death scenarios, including the danger of immediate bodily harm, experiencing the death of a loved one, sexual assault, or threats on someone’s life or security. These experiences can warp someone’s outlook on life or on particular interactions. They can compromise someone’s feeling of safety, even at rest. These traumatic experiences are life-changing. It is common for each person to need professional therapy to begin working through these challenging thoughts and times. However, many people will attempt to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol. Through substance abuse, they hope to forget about the event or suppress the thoughts or fear of retaliation if another person threatens the Trauma. These Traumas are very serious, require professional support, and often dictate someone’s world view going forward or even lead to the development of PTSD depending on the circumstance. 

So What is “trauma?”

The lowercase spelling of “trauma” includes several things that someone will still need to address for their own mental health. This includes things like the death of a close friend, loss of a pet, being a victim of bullying or threat of physical harm, emotional abuse, or injuries that are not life-threatening. These aspects all take their toll on someone’s mental health and often occur during their developmental years, thus framing their world outlook from a young age. These usually go unnoticed, but allowing the emotional toll of these events to pile up can require the help of a trained professional in order to prevent further stress on someone’s mental health. 

These “traumas” can be very dangerous, especially when compiled together. However, it may also seem difficult to seek professional treatment. Since these are not events that immediately pop into mind when someone mentions traumatic experiences, it is common that someone not see the dangers they pose to someone’s mental health. If someone doesn’t believe that their experiences are “traumatic” enough, they may not allow themselves to seek the help they need. These “traumas” are still just as essential to address, especially if someone experiences multiple events that all fall into this category. 

They Both Need to be Addressed

There is no such thing as a traumatic experience that doesn’t take a toll on someone. However, since conversations around traumatic experiences typically hover within the realm of the capital “T” “Trauma,” many of the other “traumas” are left unaddressed. Those suffering from “trauma” first need to know that their experiences are just as important for their own mental health, regardless of what someone else may think. Simply because someone’s life wasn’t in danger doesn’t mean they aren’t suffering from stress following the event. Allowing “traumas” to build by not addressing them as traumatic experiences can lead someone to further their own mental instabilities. In other cases, people try to self-medicate on their own, typically through the use of drugs or alcohol. 

There are ways for those who experience either “Trauma” or “trauma” to seek the professional help they may need. It is essential to know that traumatic experiences all need to be addressed. Trauma is a part of many peoples’ lives. Knowing the difference between the different kinds of trauma can help someone understand their own mental health, or even begin their own dialogue to deconstruct the stigmas surrounding both types of traumas. 

There is no shortage of stressful events and traumatic experiences that someone may come across in their lives. Self-medicating with drugs or alcohol is a common practice for those suffering from their own traumatic experiences. If you or a loved one are struggling with an addiction to drugs or alcohol, or are experiencing the mental and emotional toll that traumatic experiences can bring, Lighthouse Recovery can help. We allow each person to address their vulnerabilities in a safe, comfortable environment. Each program can be uniquely constructed to help manage your unique needs and situation, and the caring professionals at Lighthouse can help instill the skills that will be most impactful for each individual.