What is the Difference Between Acute, Chronic, and Complex Trauma?



This video describes the difference between acute, chronic, and complex trauma. When I use the word trauma, I’m referring to trauma as it’s looked at in the definition of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a mental health disorder that requires a qualifying traumatic event. These different types of trauma are sometimes used in determining what kind of care would be appropriate or necessary. Acute trauma is also referred to as simple trauma, and this usually means when there’s one traumatic event in someone’s history. It would be potentially the focus of treatment or may have led to posttraumatic stress disorder. whether there was a diagnosis of posttraumatic stress disorder or not, this would just involve one event. This could be a motor vehicle accident, a natural disaster, a workplace injury or some event that just occurs one time. Chronic trauma has multiple events. Complex trauma is often thought of as being the same thing as chronic trauma, however, with complex trauma sometimes there’s an added set of criteria and that would include that the traumatic events were perpetrated by a caregiver or another trusted individual, there was a sense of betrayal, and the traumatic events happened during childhood. Regardless of the exact definition of complex trauma. the reason that this classification exists is because we believe that there is a likelihood of seeing particular symptoms or seeing more severe symptoms with complex trauma than with simple trauma. With complex trauma, it wouldn’t be unusual to see relational difficulties, a sense of guilt and/or shame, low self-esteem, a distorted self-image, dissociation, difficulties regulating emotions, and a sense of hopelessness or a loss of meaning now.

Source: Youtube