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What is a Traumatic Event?

An event is usually considered traumatic if a person has experienced or witnessed actual, or threatened, death or serious injury.  Traumatic events range from common incidents to large-scale disasters and include:

  • Transport disasters such as road or rail accidents
  • Violence in the home or on the street
  • House fires
  • Natural disasters such as earthquakes or floods
  • Combat experiences for both military personnel and civilians
  • Terrorist attacks
  • Rape and sexual assault

Other more 'typical' life events can also be so overwhelming for some people that they are experienced as traumatic incidents. These may include:

  • Job loss or redundancy
  • The end of a long-term relationship or divorce
  • Miscarriage
  • The death of a loved one 

An experience can generally be described as traumatic when a person's normal ability to cope has been completely overwhelmed by a terrible event.