Trauma is far more common than you might think, with the vast majority (70%) of people experiencing at least one traumatic event during their lifetimes. The effects of trauma, especially without the right support, can feel earth-shattering. Trauma has the potential to shift your worldview, sense of self, and relationships. It can also lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a clinical mental health diagnosis.

Trauma and PTSD can be overcome. This Roadmap provides an understanding of what trauma and PTSD are, their potential impact, how to cope, and where to find credible resources to further your healing journey. 

Scroll on for more, and if this content ever becomes too difficult to read, skip to the Coping & Treatment section for coping skills, or take a break and engage in a soothing activity.

Created in partnership with Kenneth Cole Productions and Men’s Wearhouse

What are trauma & PTSD?

While not all trauma leads to PTSD, all PTSD stems from trauma. 


Trauma is the emotional or psychological response to a deeply distressing experience or situation. It typically creates a sense of fear that does not have to but can have lasting effects on well-being.


Post-traumatic stress disorder, aka PTSD, is a clinical mental health diagnosis resulting from traumatic experience(s) that leads to a specific set of symptoms.


Here are some experiences that are commonly considered traumatic and can lead to PTSD:

  • Abuse (sexual, physical, emotional, psychological, cultural, financial)
  • Accidents resulting in injury
  • Assault 
  • Death of loved ones
  • Discrimination
  • Harassment
  • Incarceration
  • Poverty
  • Medical interventions
  • Natural disasters
  • Neglect
  • Warfare
  • Witnessing violence


While there are many types of trauma, below are some of the more common ones. Click each term to learn more.


A single distressing incident → trauma


Surviving a hate crime


Prolonged, repeated experiences → trauma


Financial abuse that unfolds over years


Multiple distressing events that are interpersonal and invasive in nature → trauma


Ongoing child abuse; intimate partner violence


A major event experienced by a group of individuals or within a community → trauma


Historical trauma; the COVID-19 pandemic


Mistreatment from another person or persons → trauma


Abuse; combat; assault; discrimination


Highly distressing experiences that do not originate from human behavior → trauma


Medical diagnoses; natural disasters


Terrifying events experienced by one generation → similar trauma-based reactions in next generation(s)


Historical trauma; slavery; the Holocaust


Learning about the traumatic experiences of others, especially those you are close to → trauma


A loved one recounting an assault they survived


To stop trauma from progressing to PTSD, early care and support after traumatic events is crucial. And knowing the warning signs of PTSD can go a long way in recognizing when support is needed. Here they are:

  • Aggressive or emotional outbursts
  • Acute or chronic unexplained physical pain
  • Heart palpitations, trembling hands, or sweating
  • Jumpiness
  • Digestion disruptions
  • Low mood
  • Social isolation
  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Distrust of others or the world
  • Nightmares and/or flashbacks
  • A sense of self-blame, worthlessness, shame, or guilt
  • Avoidance of people, things, or situations related to traumatic event
  • Difficulty with sleep, eating, or physical intimacy
  • Weakened immune system
  • Headaches
  • Feeling empty or hopeless
  • Irritability 
  • Dissociation

If you or someone you know is in crisis, having thoughts of suicide, or needs a safe place to talk, you or they can call 988 or text the Crisis Text Line by texting “COALITION” to 741-741.

How trauma & PTSD impact mental health

The impact of trauma can touch all major aspects of life. Here are some common ways trauma & PTSD can affect your well-being.

Daily Impact

Trauma & PTSD can lead to difficulties that negatively impact life on a daily basis. Some of these include:


Detachment from or negative sense of self

Jaded, fearful, or mistrustful view of the world or other people

Diminished sense of safety

Strained relationships

Difficulty regulating emotions

Decline in performance at work 

Decline in school performance

Impaired cognitive functioning (e.g., memory, focus)


Clinical Impact

Trauma can lead to difficulties that are so severe that a clinical diagnosis and treatment are necessary. Experiences of trauma can raise your susceptibility to: 



Complex PTSD

Prolonged grief disorder

Other mental health conditions

Medical conditions 


Trauma & Veterans

Active duty service members and Veterans are faced with traumatic experiences inherent to the nature of their work. Exposure to trauma over time can impact mental health and well-being. Many service members find difficulty in talking to their friends and families about their experiences and the lasting impact those experiences have on their lives. This can leave Veterans feeling isolated. However, you don’t have to struggle alone. (Learn more in the Coping & Treatment section.)

If you are a Veteran or know a Veteran in need of support, call 988, then press 1 to be connected with a responder qualified to support Veterans. 

Trauma & social justice

While anyone can experience trauma, some communities are disproportionately affected by trauma due to systemic inequity. Thinking intersectionally about social group identities like race, ethnicity, culture, social class, sexual and gender identity, ability status, nationality, and religion is important when exploring trauma and PTSD.

These are some factors that can lead to higher levels of trauma and PTSD based on social group identity:

  • Discrimination and prejudice
  • Environmental inequities (see Climate Change Roadmap)
  • Identity-based harassment or assault
  • Infringement of rights 
  • Law enforcement violence
  • Micro- and macro-aggressions
  • Othering or social exclusion
  • Religious persecution
  • Religious trauma
  • Resource deprivation due to inequity
  • Unjust legal system

Although daunting, in the face of injustices like these, working to build your own joy can be an act of resistance. Read on for ideas on how to cope.

Coping with trauma & PTSD

Daily Tools

When it comes to trauma and PTSD, there are many sources of healing. It is important to know where to look, find what works specifically for you, and be ready to take steps toward implementing coping strategies. 

Below are five ways to promote healing after a traumatic event — click each skill to learn more. These activities can be done on your own for free or low cost. 

As with any tips for boosting mental well-being, the most important factor is that you find ways that work for you. If none of these speak to you, see if you can get creative and come up with some of your own.

The Skill

The Why

Social support is one of the best antidotes to trauma and PTSD. Consider who in your life you can lean on or be vulnerable with. 

The How

Video chat with a close friend to talk about how you’re feeling.

If you can’t think of someone, seek out a support group online.

The Why

Trauma and PTSD can disconnect you from yourself in many ways. Practice mindfulness techniques in order to find yourself again.

The How

Practice a mindful body scan. Set a timer for three minutes, close your eyes, and just notice how each part of your body feels, scanning from your head to your toes. Try to let go of any judgment.

The Why

Traumatic experiences can stay with us for years in the body, and attention to the physical body can be restorative.

The How

Find an activity that feels soothing like yoga, massage, stretching, or a self-hug.

The Why

Trauma can negatively impact the way we view ourselves. Developing your strengths can bring you a sense of purpose and resilience. 

The How

Journal about the positive things a friend might say about you or moments that you’ve felt proud of yourself.

The Why

Practicing self-love can help release self-blame and replenish a positive view of yourself after trauma. MHC’s Roadmap to Self-Love can help you find ways of doing that.

The How

Give yourself some positive self-talk or think of something kind to say to yourself. If that feels hard, try simply starting with, “I am whole.”

You deserve to feel safe and at peace.

Whatever stage of healing you are in today, remember that growth after trauma is a journey, and that journey can take time. If you feel ready, we’ve got more resources for you to explore below.



Check out the Mental Health Coalition’s Resource Library for additional information on boosting mental well-being.

Resource Library

If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis, use the resources below:


The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones.

Crisis Text Line

Text COALITION to 741741 from anywhere in the United States, anytime. A live, trained Crisis Counselor receives the text and responds, helping you move from a hot moment to a cool moment.

National Sexual Assault Hotline

RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) is the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization. Call their National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-4673.


If you or a friend need urgent assistance, call 911 immediately, or take your friend directly to the emergency room. If you feel it’s safe, stay with your friend, or find someone to stay with them until help arrives.

Call 911


You are never alone. Help is always available. For immediate support 24/7, reach out to the Crisis Text Line by texting COALITION to 741741, or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988. It’s free and it’s highly confidential, unless it’s essential to contact emergency services to keep you or your friend safe.


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