It is not the event itself that causes traumatic stress; it is the individual's perception of and inability to respond to the event. If one perceives a situation to be overwhelming or life-threatening, then that situation can potentially produce traumatic stress.

People, particularly children can be overwhelmed (potentially traumatized) by what are regarded as everyday common occurrences (e.g. minor automobile accident or a fall from a bicycle). Unresolved physiologic imprints of traumatic stress, regardless of when events happened, remain with us throughout life.

Similarly, hospitalizations and medical procedures routinely produce traumatic results. The traumatic after-effects from prolonged immobilization, hospitalizations, and especially surgeries are often long lasting and severe.

Even though a person may recognize that an operation is necessary, and despite the fact that they are unconscious during surgery, the body perceives that it is in mortal danger. Intellectually, we may understand the reason for an operation, but on a more primal level the body does not.


List of causes

Medical: hospitalizations, surgeries, invasive medical procedures, anesthesia, burns, poisoning, fetal distress and traumatic birth

Accidents: falls, high impact accidents (including auto accidents), head injury, electrocution

Suffocation: drowning, strangulation

Natural and man-made disasters: earthquakes, fires, tornadoes, floods, terrorism, dislocation from the natural world and community

Horror: Seeing an accident (especially with blood, gore and dismemberment), watching someone else being abused, raped, killed or tortured

Developmental: neglect, abandonment, loss and ongoing abuse

Attack: rape, war, bombings, physical abuse, mugging, molestation, physical injury, stabbing, gunshot wounds, animal attacks Torture, repeated rape and systematic abuse