TRAUMA: A simple working definition of Trauma was developed at the International Childhood Trauma Conference hosted by the Australian Childhood Foundation in Melbourne, Australia, in August 2014. "Trauma is any experience that overwhelms one’s capacity to adapt" (Siegel, 2014).
Additional Definitions: Trauma is the Greek word for wound, damage or defeat (Oxford Dictionaries, 2013).
“Any injury whether physically or emotionally inflicted … refers to an experience that is emotionally painful, distressful, or shocking, which often results in lasting mental and physical effects” (Farmacia, 2013).
"Psychological trauma is the unique individual experience of an event or enduring conditions, in which: 1. The individual's ability to integrate his/her emotional experience is overwhelmed, or 2. The individual experiences (subjectively) a threat to life, bodily integrity, or sanity" (Pearlman & Saakvitne, 1995, p. 60).
“A traumatic event involves a single experience, or enduring repeated or multiple experiences, that completely overwhelm the individual’s ability to cope or integrate the ideas and emotions involved in that experience … Traumatising events can take a serious emotional toll on those involved, even if the event did not cause physical damage. This can have a profound impact on the individual’s identity, resulting in negative effects in mind, body, soul and spirit” (Klinic Community Health Centre, 2013).
From the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) Fifth Edition. In the DSM V trauma was moved from the class of anxiety disorders into a new class of trauma and stressor-related disorders (American Psychiatric Association, 2013).
•"exposure to actual or threatened death, serious injury or sexual violation. The exposure must result from one or more of the following scenarios, in which the individual;
1.directly experiences the traumatic event;
2.witnesses the traumatic event in person;
3.learns that the traumatic event occurred to a close family member or close friend (with the actual or threatened death being either violent or accidental); or
4.experiences first-hand repeated or extreme exposure to aversive details of the traumatic event (not through media, pictures, television or movies unless work-related).
5.the disturbance, regardless of its trigger, causes clinically significant distress or impairment in the individual’s social interactions, capacity to work or other important areas of functioning. It is not the physiological result of another medical condition, medication, drugs or alcohol.”
Complex Trauma or Developmental Trauma Disorder (DTD): Describes exposure to chronic (repeated) trauma and the impact of such exposure (traumatic stress) on that individual. Complex Trauma/DTD adversely impacts on psychosocial, emotional, mental, developmental, neurobiological, physiological, familial, relational, scholastic, vocational and legal aspects of an individual’s life throughout their lifespan. Dr. Bessel van der Kolk and the staff at The Trauma Centre at Justice Resource Institute have been researching “Disorders of Extreme Stress” in children for a decade. Together with the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN), they lobbied & advocated to have DVD included into the DSM-5. Unfortunately, DTD did not make into the DSM-5, this time. Though, a substantial number of international mental health clinicans, academics & researchers are using this term and its professional clinical applications (NCTSN, 2009, 2013; van der Kolk, 2005, 2015).
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders. (5th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.
Farmacia, (2013). Home Pharmacy Glossary of Medical Terms. Retrieved from
Klinic Community Health Centre (2013). The trauma-informed toolkit second edition. Retrieved from
Oxford Dictionaries, (2013). Trauma. Retrieved from
Pearlman, L. A., & Saakvitne, K. W. (1995). Trauma and the Therapist. New York: NY. W. W. Norton & Company.
The National Child Traumatic Stress Network, (2007). The 12 core concepts: Concepts for understanding traumatic stress responses in children and families. Retrieved from
The National Child Traumatic Stress Network, (2013). What is Complex Trauma? Retrieved from
van der Kolk, B. A. (2005). Developmental trauma disorder. Psychiatric Annals, 35(5), 401-408.
van der Kolk, B. A. (2015). Trauma Centre Publications. Retrieved from