The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

SAMHSA Stakeholder Feedback

(CLOSED) Definition of Trauma

This forum serves as an opportunity for the public — including SAMHSA stakeholders — to provide feedback and ideas on: The working Definition of Trauma

Current Working Definition:

Individual trauma results from an event, series of events, or set of circumstances that is experienced by an individual as physically and emotionally harmful or threatening and that has lasting adverse effects on the individual’s physical, social, emotional, or spiritual well-being.

For more information, please refer to the complete paper: SAMHSA’s Working Definition of Trauma and Principles and Guidance for a Trauma-Informed Approach (http://www.samhsa.gov/traumajustice/traumadefinition/index.aspx)

Help on using this tool is available in our FAQ section (http://www.samhsa.gov/about/feedback.aspx) and you can contact SAMHSA at newmedia@samhsa.hhs.gov for more assistance

This forum will close on Friday, December 21st at midnight Eastern Time.

Tell us your views on the working definition of trauma. What do you like about the definition, and what changes do you suggest?

You've used all your votes and won't be able to post a new idea, but you can still search and comment on existing ideas.

There are two ways to get more votes:

  • When an admin closes an idea you've voted on, you'll get your votes back from that idea.
  • You can remove your votes from an open idea you support.
  • To see ideas you have already voted on, select the "My feedback" filter and select "My open ideas".
(thinking…)

Enter your idea and we'll search to see if someone has already suggested it.

If a similar idea already exists, you can vote and comment on it.

If it doesn't exist, you can post your idea so others can vote on it.

Enter your idea and we'll search to see if someone has already suggested it.

  1. The summary working definition is a good starting point but I think the lengthier working statement does more justice to the complexity of t

    The summary working definition is a good starting point but I think the lengthier working statement does more justice to the complexity of trauma. There may be a trauma taxonomy/ language that I'm unaware of but I do think there may be fundamental differences in the dynamics of an individual's trauma experience depending on whether the causation was based in interpersonal or family relationships vs in community - based event or large scale disaster. The "who or what" that created the trauma is important in framing the responses to it. Similarly there are dynamics distinctions between privately- based( eg child…

    1 vote
    Vote
    Sign in
    Check!
    (thinking…)
    Reset
    or sign in with
    • facebook
    • google
      Password icon
      I agree to the terms of service
      Signed in as (Sign out)
      You have left! (?) (thinking…)
      1 comment  ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →
    • 2 votes
      Vote
      Sign in
      Check!
      (thinking…)
      Reset
      or sign in with
      • facebook
      • google
        Password icon
        I agree to the terms of service
        Signed in as (Sign out)
        You have left! (?) (thinking…)
        0 comments  ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →
      • Physical Complications

        I agree with the current working definition. As a family member and advocate, this describes my experience with trauma with my family member. Just as the definition says it had lasting adverse effects on the individual's physical, social, emotional, or spiritual well-being. In so much as my family member died a year ago at an early age.

        1 vote
        Vote
        Sign in
        Check!
        (thinking…)
        Reset
        or sign in with
        • facebook
        • google
          Password icon
          I agree to the terms of service
          Signed in as (Sign out)
          You have left! (?) (thinking…)
          0 comments  ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →
        • Working definition accurate, but not precise

          I appreciate the current working definition for "trauma". I also know that there is much work to do to enhance the definition so that it is more broadly accepted and more well-defined.

          As a trauma survivor, no one has to tell me what the definition should be. I feel the effects quite often, both individually and within my community. This was the case on 2 July 1984.

          At age 10, I witnessed my mother, Jacqueline and my 12 year-old brother, Anthony, get shot and killed by my mother's estranged boyfriend, Marshall. Marshall took his own life that day, but not…

          1 vote
          Vote
          Sign in
          Check!
          (thinking…)
          Reset
          or sign in with
          • facebook
          • google
            Password icon
            I agree to the terms of service
            Signed in as (Sign out)
            You have left! (?) (thinking…)
            3 comments  ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →
          • National Center on Domestic Violence, Trauma & Mental Health - comments on Part One: Defining Trauma

            The following comments are submitted by the National Center on Domestic Violence, Trauma & Mental Health. We are encouraged by SAMHSA’s ongoing work and interest in trauma and trauma-informed approaches, and we appreciate this opportunity to provide comment.

            Part One: Defining Trauma

            We suggest adding a statement regarding resiliency in the section titled, “What do we mean by Trauma? The Three R’s,” acknowledging that resiliency factors can also affect how a person is impacted by trauma and can mitigate some of the potentially adverse effects of trauma.

            We suggest a change to the phrase “individual’s cultural beliefs (e.g., the subjugation…

            1 vote
            Vote
            Sign in
            Check!
            (thinking…)
            Reset
            or sign in with
            • facebook
            • google
              Password icon
              I agree to the terms of service
              Signed in as (Sign out)
              You have left! (?) (thinking…)
              0 comments  ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →
            • Recommendations from National Center for Child Traumatic Stress/National Child Traumatic Stress Network (final)

              The National Center for Child Traumatic Stress appreciates the opportunity to comment on the working definition of trauma; the ideas related to a trauma-informed approach; and the suggested guidelines for implementing a trauma-informed approach. NCCTS staff and members of the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) contributed to this effort, but are concerned that many potentially serious problems remain with the current drafts; these problems may hamper the implementation of a comprehensive trauma-informed approach. More details are below, but the NCCTS/NCTSN members are also available to assist with a revision.

              The concerns regarding the definition fall into 3 main areas:

              4 votes
              Vote
              Sign in
              Check!
              (thinking…)
              Reset
              or sign in with
              • facebook
              • google
                Password icon
                I agree to the terms of service
                Signed in as (Sign out)
                You have left! (?) (thinking…)
                0 comments  ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →
              • I define trauma as an event that is life-threatening or that severely compromises the emotional well-being of an individual or causes intens

                I define trauma as an event that is life-threatening or that severely compromises the emotional well-being of an individual or causes intense fear.

                1 vote
                Vote
                Sign in
                Check!
                (thinking…)
                Reset
                or sign in with
                • facebook
                • google
                  Password icon
                  I agree to the terms of service
                  Signed in as (Sign out)
                  You have left! (?) (thinking…)
                  0 comments  ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →
                • Generally good, although the word "event" may be limiting and the examples used to illustrate institutional trauma are extreme

                  Much of the trauma that lands people into behavioral health treatment is pervasive and chronic, so the word "event" seems to be lacking to some degree. Also, using the obvious "restraints & seclusion" example to illustrate seemingly benevolent treatment-related re-traumatization neglects the more over-arching & common aspects of treatment many find to be so distressful, such as infantilizing, retaliation practices, disrespectful providers, lack of voice in policy-making, etc etc.

                  5 votes
                  Vote
                  Sign in
                  Check!
                  (thinking…)
                  Reset
                  or sign in with
                  • facebook
                  • google
                    Password icon
                    I agree to the terms of service
                    Signed in as (Sign out)
                    You have left! (?) (thinking…)
                    0 comments  ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →
                  • Availability of resources

                    The section on community trauma should also note that the availability of resources in a given community to handle a traumatic event can also determine the lasting impact of trauma. For example, communities that are economically disadvantaged or lack resources to help members recover from their losses and/or provide them adequate access to mental health professionals may be impacted by the traumatic event for a longer period of time than communities that have more resources.

                    3 votes
                    Vote
                    Sign in
                    Check!
                    (thinking…)
                    Reset
                    or sign in with
                    • facebook
                    • google
                      Password icon
                      I agree to the terms of service
                      Signed in as (Sign out)
                      You have left! (?) (thinking…)
                      0 comments  ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →
                    • Community's response to an individual's trauma

                      The section on community trauma should also note that a community’s response to an individual experiencing trauma can play an important role in the individual’s ability to recover. If a community neglects or responds negatively to an individual who has experienced a traumatic event, the individual may be further traumatized or have difficulty recovering. On the other hand, if a community understands and strongly supports an individual experiencing trauma, his/her recovery process will likely be easier. Furthermore, it should also be recognized that some immigrant groups that move to the United States bring trauma from certain cultural practices they have…

                      2 votes
                      Vote
                      Sign in
                      Check!
                      (thinking…)
                      Reset
                      or sign in with
                      • facebook
                      • google
                        Password icon
                        I agree to the terms of service
                        Signed in as (Sign out)
                        You have left! (?) (thinking…)
                        0 comments  ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →
                      • Normalized trauma

                        In addition to the examples provided in the section on community trauma, we propose adding that there is also trauma that gets normalized to the point that the individual(s) experiencing it do not realize that they are traumatized. For example, an individual who lives in a community inflicted with gun violence may get desensitized to seeing or hearing about violent deaths /homicides so frequently that s/he would consider it a normal part of life

                        3 votes
                        Vote
                        Sign in
                        Check!
                        (thinking…)
                        Reset
                        or sign in with
                        • facebook
                        • google
                          Password icon
                          I agree to the terms of service
                          Signed in as (Sign out)
                          You have left! (?) (thinking…)
                          1 comment  ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →
                        • Social Support

                          In the third paragraph after the definition, we propose adding that the type and amount of social support an individual receives after experiencing a traumatic event can often determine whether or not that individual develops PTSD or long lasting effects of trauma.

                          2 votes
                          Vote
                          Sign in
                          Check!
                          (thinking…)
                          Reset
                          or sign in with
                          • facebook
                          • google
                            Password icon
                            I agree to the terms of service
                            Signed in as (Sign out)
                            You have left! (?) (thinking…)
                            0 comments  ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →
                          • Re-triggering of trauma

                            In the second after the definition in this section, we propose that you add that trauma that is considered “healed” can often be re-triggered by events that remind the individual of their previous traumatic experience(s).

                            3 votes
                            Vote
                            Sign in
                            Check!
                            (thinking…)
                            Reset
                            or sign in with
                            • facebook
                            • google
                              Password icon
                              I agree to the terms of service
                              Signed in as (Sign out)
                              You have left! (?) (thinking…)
                              0 comments  ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →
                            • Recommendations from The National Center on Family Homelessness

                              •The definition should qualify that traumatic events or circumstances are outside of what is usual to avoid understanding any stressful experience as traumatic.
                              •The definition should include reference to the neurophysiological aspects of a traumatic experience and the effects of that experience.
                              •The definition should frame the effects of trauma within the context of development to ensure inclusion of child and adult experiences.
                              •The current definition refers to trauma as having “lasting adverse effects” which implies that all experiences of trauma result in long-term challenges. The definition should allow for a range of possible impact that includes short-term and/or long…

                              2 votes
                              Vote
                              Sign in
                              Check!
                              (thinking…)
                              Reset
                              or sign in with
                              • facebook
                              • google
                                Password icon
                                I agree to the terms of service
                                Signed in as (Sign out)
                                You have left! (?) (thinking…)
                                0 comments  ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →
                              • I appreciated the idea that the community definition of trauma can be passed down generation after generation.

                                I liked including in the community part of the definition that trauma can be passed down generation to generation

                                4 votes
                                Vote
                                Sign in
                                Check!
                                (thinking…)
                                Reset
                                or sign in with
                                • facebook
                                • google
                                  Password icon
                                  I agree to the terms of service
                                  Signed in as (Sign out)
                                  You have left! (?) (thinking…)
                                  0 comments  ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →
                                • 3 votes
                                  Vote
                                  Sign in
                                  Check!
                                  (thinking…)
                                  Reset
                                  or sign in with
                                  • facebook
                                  • google
                                    Password icon
                                    I agree to the terms of service
                                    Signed in as (Sign out)
                                    You have left! (?) (thinking…)
                                    0 comments  ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →
                                  • Including Community Context in the Definition

                                    As a Clinical Community Psychologist working in a community based organization, I appreciate that you include the context of the community within the description of the definition. I wonder if there can be acknowledgement of this within the actual definition?

                                    1 vote
                                    Vote
                                    Sign in
                                    Check!
                                    (thinking…)
                                    Reset
                                    or sign in with
                                    • facebook
                                    • google
                                      Password icon
                                      I agree to the terms of service
                                      Signed in as (Sign out)
                                      You have left! (?) (thinking…)
                                      0 comments  ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →
                                    • The working definition, as listed, is a person-centered definition versus thedefinition one might find in Webster's or online.

                                      The definition found online minimizes the experience of the individual whereas the working definition captures that trauma is experienced by one individual very differently than it might be experienced by another. It takes into account culture,community and event in a way that does not appear to be considered in the more mainstream definition(s) of trauma. The only thing that might be considered for change is amend the term "threatening" to "life threatening".

                                      1 vote
                                      Vote
                                      Sign in
                                      Check!
                                      (thinking…)
                                      Reset
                                      or sign in with
                                      • facebook
                                      • google
                                        Password icon
                                        I agree to the terms of service
                                        Signed in as (Sign out)
                                        You have left! (?) (thinking…)
                                        0 comments  ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →
                                      • The definition is self referential. You have to have the result to have the thing itself. This does not work. Trauma is trauma

                                        Regardless of the reaction or interpretation of the person/persons experiencing the event, the event did happen. Everyone who expereinces the event directly or indirectly is impacted by the event, if in no other way than to have a new neuronal pathway with the memory. What people do with the event may vary, many times depending on the resiliency of the person and the environment.

                                        As adverse childhood events are the greatest indicator of adult mental health issues, it is important to address the trauma immediately and not when the effects show up sometime later.

                                        7 votes
                                        Vote
                                        Sign in
                                        Check!
                                        (thinking…)
                                        Reset
                                        or sign in with
                                        • facebook
                                        • google
                                          Password icon
                                          I agree to the terms of service
                                          Signed in as (Sign out)
                                          You have left! (?) (thinking…)
                                          2 comments  ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →
                                        • Agreement

                                          The fomulation of trauma as involving an event, a difficult subjective experience,and lasting adverse effects (three E's) is very well done.

                                          11 votes
                                          Vote
                                          Sign in
                                          Check!
                                          (thinking…)
                                          Reset
                                          or sign in with
                                          • facebook
                                          • google
                                            Password icon
                                            I agree to the terms of service
                                            Signed in as (Sign out)
                                            You have left! (?) (thinking…)
                                            0 comments  ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →
                                          ← Previous 1 3 4 5 10 11

                                          (CLOSED) Definition of Trauma

                                          Feedback and Knowledge Base