This section is designed to give basic information regarding trauma. For more information please visit the links below. 

  • 70% of adults in the U.S. have experienced some type of traumatic event at least once in their lives. That’s 223.4 million people. 

  • In public behavioral health, over 90% of clients have experienced trauma. 

  • Trauma is a risk factor in nearly all behavioral health and substance use disorders

What is Trauma?

The American Psychological Association defines trauma as an emotional response to a terrible event they find physically or emotionally threatening or harmful. A traumatized person can feel a range of emotions both immediately after an event and long term. A person may feel overwhelmed, shocked. or have difficulty processing their experience.  They can also experience physical symptoms such as headaches and nausea. 

Trauma can have long-term effects on the person’s well-being. If symptoms persist and do not decrease in severity, it can indicate that the trauma has developed into a mental health disorder called posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 

Source: American Psychological Association

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) 

Adverse Childhood Experiences or "ACEs" are experiences children have before they turn 18. They include experiences such as physical and emotional abuse, neglect, caregiver mental illness, and household violence.  The term ACEs comes from a study done in 1995 by Kaiser Permanente who began asking their members more detailed information about their childhood experiences. 

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention / Credit: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation


They surveyed over 17,000 members and found that almost two-thirds of the participants reported at least one ACE, and more than one in five reported three or more ACEs.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention / Credit: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

The short- and long-term outcomes of these childhood exposures resulted in both health and social problems. As the number of ACEs increased, the risk for health problems later in life also increased. The following health problems have been linked to adverse childhood experiences.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention / Credit: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation


Since the original study there have been other studies done that have expanded the research. One study the The Philadelphia ACE Project, looked at ACEs among inner-city youth and the implications of intergenerational trauma. In the first study conducted by Kaiser Permanente and the CDC of 17,000 participants, 69.9% of participants had at least one ACE. In the expanded ACEs study conducted by the Philadelphia ACE Project, 83.2% of participants had at least one ACE. The graphic below captures the original types of ACEs (i.e., childhood abuse, neglect, and household dysfunction) as well as the expanded ACEs, whereby the expanded ACEs consists of additional items that measure exposure to bullying, community violence, neighborhood safety, racism, and living in foster care.   

Source: Cronholm, P. F., Forke, C. M., Wade, R., Bair-Merritt, M. H., Davis, M., Harkins-Schwarz, M., Pachter, L. M., & Fein, J. A. (2015). Adverse childhood experiences: Expanding the concept of adversity. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 49(3), 354–361. 

You can take the original ACE Survey here.


Office of Behavioral Health Keep Calm Line: 

  • Phone: 1-866-310-7977

  • Keep Calm crisis phone line provides trained, compassionate counselors, to support Louisianans through this difficult time. Counselors are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with information and service coordination, linking callers to mental health and substance abuse counseling services.


SAMHSA Disaster Distress Helpline

  • Phone: 1-800-985-5990

  • Text TALKWITHUS to 66746


CrisisText Line

  • Text REACHOUT to 741741 (available 24/7)

Types of Trauma

There are several types of trauma: 

  • Acute Trauma: This results from a single stressful or dangerous event that threatens a person emotionally or physically. This experience can leave a lasting impression and can affect the way a person thinks or behaves. 

  • Chronic Trauma: Chronic trauma results from repeated and prolonged exposure to highly stressful events. Chronic trauma may result from a long-term serious illness, sexual abuse, domestic violence, or bullying. Multiple acute traumas or untreated acute trauma may develop into chronic trauma. 

  • Complex Trauma: Complex trauma results from exposure to multiple traumatic events or experiences. These events usually result from negative experiences within interpersonal relationships. This is commonly seen in individuals who have been victims of childhood abuse, neglect, domestic violence, family disputes, or other repetitive situations. Chronic trauma can affect a person’s relationships and performance at work or school.  

  • Secondary Trauma: Secondary trauma, or vicarious trauma, is another form of trauma. With this form of trauma, a person develops trauma symptoms from close contact with someone who has experienced a traumatic event. Family members, mental health professionals, and others who care for those who have experienced a traumatic event are at risk of vicarious trauma. The symptoms often mirror those of PTSD.

  • Source: Feinberg Consulting, Inc., ACA Knowledge Center


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