Did I Experience a Trauma? Could I Have PTSD?

In PTSD, a trauma is defined as “exposure to actual or threatened death, serious injury, or sexual violence”. The trauma can be something that happened to you as a child or as an adult, something that happened once or many times over the years, or even something that you witnessed or learned about it happening to a close family member or friend. Even though we often describe things like a divorce, a bad argument with a friend or parent, a difficult move, or a toxic work environment as ‘traumatic’, these major stressors are not experiences that would lead to a diagnosis of PTSD. When we think about “Big T” traumas, we mean events like childhood physical or sexual abuse, an actual or threatened assault, unwanted sexual contact or abuse, exposure to war or combat, severe motor vehicle accidents, natural or man-made disasters, or sudden/catastrophic medical events.

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How trauma stress is passed down to children and burdens families with mental disorders – Trauma Series by Kenneth Perlmutter, PhD

Addiction, compulsion, disordered eating and mental illness typically show up in people from families that have experienced significant losses from which members of the system have never fully recovered.

Families burdened by these legacies of loss find themselves caught in repetitive cycles of illness and relapse, reinforced by learned responses that are transmitted across the generations.  Rather than see these families as dysfunctional, it has proven more useful to think of them as “wounded.” The wounded family system displays a set of environmental characteristics dubbed “the dastardly D’s.”  This vignette describes a family burdened with inherited trauma stress… 

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