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Most of us have experienced a traumatic event in our lives that has triggered our emotions in a deeply distressing manner. Statistics show that 70% of individuals in the United States have experienced a traumatic event at least once in their lifetime (How to Manage Trauma, 2013). In terms of clinical behavioral health, over 90% of clients have gone through a traumatic experience (How to manage trauma, 2013). This shows that trauma is a disorder that is very common because of how many traumatic events happen around the world. It could be traumatic events such as war, childhood abuse, any type of emotional or physical abuse, natural disasters, grief and loss, witnessing acts of violence, etc. (How to manage trauma, 2013). An example of a traumatic event that caused trauma within individuals would be the 9/11 event. Even though people witnessed this type of event, this can still cause trauma within them. In terms of war, the type of trauma that most relates to it is posttraumatic disorder, also known as PTSD. However, PTSD is not only war-related experiences, but also exposure to death, serious injury, or sexual violence (American Psychiatric Association, 2013).

In this paper, I will first be examining the history of trauma and the types of experiences that relate to this disorder. Then, I will be examining post-traumatic disorder and the types of examples that relate to this disorder. Finally, I will be responding to Judith L. Herman’s thoughts on trauma.


According to the DSM-5, trauma is defined as a disorder in which exposure to a traumatic or stressful event is listed as a diagnostic criterion (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). Trauma is more of a broad term because it all depends on the context. The DSM-5 lists five different types of trauma disorders which include reactive attachment disorder, disinhibited social engagement, posttraumatic stress disorder, acute stress disorder, and adjustment disorders (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). Each of these trauma-related disorders has similar characteristics such as the emotional and behavioral problems that result from that specific traumatic event.

The real question is ‘How was trauma first discovered’? Trauma was first investigated by a French physician and neurologist, Jean-Martin Charcot, who was working and helping traumatized women in the Salpetriere hospital (Ringel & Brandell., 2011). The women at this hospital were all diagnosed with Hysteria, which is composed of symptoms such as sudden paralysis, amnesia, sensory loss, and convulsions (Ringel & Brandell., 2011). Charcot was the first one to understand that Hysteria was not physiological, but psychological because of how traumatic events induce a hypnotic state in individuals (Ringel & Brandell., 2011). Charcot ended up presenting his trauma theory as traumatic experiences influence the personality development and behavior of an individual (Ringel & Brandell., 2011). From his patients, who were women, he discovered that the women’s intense effects were a reaction to their perceptions of the traumatic experience that occurred to them (Ringel & Brandell., 2011). The procedure that he used to prove his theory was through hypnosis. Even though he was able to discover this disease, Charcot was not able to offer a reasonable intervention for treatment (The History of Psychological Trauma, 2016).

Because he did not find the cure for trauma, this ended up being the goal for his students Sigmund Freud, William James, and Pierre Janet (The History of Psychological Trauma, 2016). Janet and Freud discovered that traumatic symptoms could be reduced if the individual can be able to discuss the traumatic event stored in their unconscious memory (The History of Psychological Trauma, 2016). This is when Freud came up with the psychoanalysis approach to treatment. Therefore, in conclusion to trauma, the best way to overcome this disorder is by talking about it because it will help an individual gain a sense of control over their life.

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Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

According to the DSM-5, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is defined as the development of characteristic symptoms following exposure to one or more traumatic experiences (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). PTSD was first studied in 1980 after the Vietnam War and the response to the women’s movement (Craighead, 2013). There was a women’s movement because of the aftermath of the war which caused an increase in rape, domestic violence, and child sexual abuse (Craighead, 2013). Any type of violent acts that a person was involved in can lead to them being diagnosed with PTSD. An example of this would be my sister. My sister was sexually molested by my great-grandfather when she was only two years old. Because of this issue, she ended up having PTSD even though she was a toddler. Before my mother told my sister about what happened to her as a toddler, my sister would experience symptoms such as recurring distressing dreams about the traumatic event and flashbacks to that traumatic event. Because she was having PTSD from her past traumatic event, she began to have trust issues with any man she dated or any man who came into our house. Every time she is on a date with a man, she has this feeling that they are going to sexually harm her.

Another example of PTSD would be how war affects the individuals who are in military combat. One of my past coworkers from a retail store I worked for, had PTSD. He worked as an asset protection for the school, so he was the one who looked out for anyone stealing or just any suspicious behavior. In that retail store, we have three different exit doors that someone can get out from, but there is a manager key that you need to get out. Therefore, when a customer tries to get out of those doors, it creates a loud alarm sound. One day that alarm went off and it caused a coworker to yell and beg for that sound to stop. Just as the retired lieutenant colonel, John O’Brien, explained in the video that he had to move out of New York City because of all the noise that happened in the city (Rose, 2012). Every noise that happened, such as a car honking or an ambulance truck, would trigger him to experience the symptoms of PTSD.

Not only does PTSD happen from experiences in our childhood or war, but it also develops from particular jobs, such as firefighters, policemen, and women (Rose, 2012). An example of this would be how a police officer can get PTSD from shooting someone or witnessing a person get shot. It’s these types of violent acts that hurt people. In conclusion, we see that people who suffer from PTSD, experience difficult problems because of a traumatic event.

Herman’s Thoughts on Trauma

Judith Herman, born in 1942, is an American psychiatrist who focused on the understanding and treatment of trauma (Judith Lewis Herman, 2011). In her book, Herman states, “To study psychological trauma means bearing witness to horrible events” (Herman, 1997). Herman explains that PTSD falls into three main categories, which include hyperarousal, intrusion, and constriction (Herman, 1997). “Hyperarousal reflects the persistent expectation of danger, intrusion reflects the indelible imprint of the traumatic moment; constriction reflects the numbing response of surrender” (Herman, 1997). I enjoyed reading this book because of how she discusses the traumatic event of child abuse.

A quote that stood out to me was, “Over time as most people fail the survivor’s exacting test of trustworthiness, she tends to withdraw from relationships. The isolation of the survivor thus persists even after she is free” (Herman, 1997). After reading this quote, reminded me a lot of my sister and the trauma she had. My sister had such a bad childhood memory, that it negatively affected my sister’s future in terms of dating men. It caused her to not trust men out there because of bad intentions they might have. I agree with a lot of the recovery treatments she explained in her book. She explains that the first principle of recovery is the empowerment of the survivor (Herman, 1997). With empowerment, one can take control over their own life instead of this traumatic event taking control. In this sense, my sister was able to take control


In conclusion, in this paper, I examined the historical roots of trauma and the different types of traumas that exist in this disorder. Trauma was first discovered by Jean-Martin Charcot and the treatments were founded by Sigmund Freud, William James, and Pierre Janet. Then, I discussed the definition and symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder. Some of the main PTSD symptoms include sleep disturbance, problems with concentration, and exaggerated startle response (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). Lastly, I explained the thoughts on what Herman thinks of PTSD and any traumatic disorder. She explains the best recovery process that an individual can do to overcome this trauma. The best way is to be able to gain a sense of empowerment. Since there is a huge population of people who have experienced some type of trauma in their lives, reading Herman’s book is the best guidance one can look up to to gain control over their own life.          

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