Continuum of Trauma

Many who are reading this will be just beginning to consider that some of your current difficulties are connected to past trauma and just starting to try and make some sense of it all. Whatever you experience or reason for visiting this website we hope that you find some comfort here and reassurance that you are O.K., that you have been injured and that your reactions to this injury are normal. For an overview of the impact of trauma we invite you to view the following video:

Traumatic events and the impact of trauma can be looked at and conceptualized as being on a continuum:


Single Event

A trauma can be a one-time/single event as in a car accident, a natural disaster and even a sexual assault. This is an event that occurs one time that might be considered exceptional circumstances.

Prolonged Family Violence

Trauma can also include prolonged family violence which could involve: physical, sexual and emotional abuse within the family context. It can also involve witnessing violence in the home between caregivers. In addition, and what is often overlooked as having a significant impact is the experience of childhood neglect. There is research to suggest that psychological abuse is also highly correlated to adult depression (Bifulco et. al, 2002).


Trauma can also be the direct result of colonization/historical. Colonization has been defined as “a process whereby one group of peoples assumes control over another group of people” (Blue Quills First Nations, 2011). Historical trauma has been defined as “a collective complex trauma inflicted on a group of people who share a specific group identity or affiliation- ethnicity, nationality and religious affiliation. It is the legacy of numerous traumatic events a community experiences over generations and encompasses the psychological and social responses to such events” (Evans-Campbell, 2008). In Canada the legacy of colonization and historical trauma involved the use of residential schools and separating children from their parents, communities and cultures. This could also include genocide that countries such as Rwanda and Dafur have experienced. In addition the Holocaust would be another example of a historical trauma.


The experience of war is also identifiable as a traumatic event. For some people they are born into a culture where war is the only existence and context they and perhaps the previous generation has known. In addition to those who are sent into war as soldiers and military personnel.


The impacts of trauma can also be considered on a continuum:

Traumatic Stress——-PTSD——–Delayed PTSD——–Complex PTSD

Traumatic Stress:

An individual may have a traumatic stress response to a traumatic event but not go on to develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). A traumatic stress response may include an involuntary reaction to a situation that is experienced as highly stressful but the body is able to fairly quickly regulate itself after the stressful event. For example having a medical procedure that may trigger a significant stress response but it does not interfere significantly in the person’s quality of life.

Next: PTSD >