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Types of Trauma: Type A and Type B

Many teens that suffer from addiction or a mental health issue have experienced some type of trauma in their lives. Traumatic events can occur anytime from early childhood into late adulthood.

People often do not realize that their mental health concerns stem from a traumatic event. Further, it can be more difficult to identify the specific event in their lifetime from which their issues occur.

Trauma is defined as a “deeply distressing or disturbing experience” and it falls into one of two types of trauma—Type A or Type B. This concept is helping many people identify where they were impacted so that they can then receive trauma-informed care.

Types Of Trauma: Type A

Type A trauma is not easily seen or identified. It comes about as the result of psychological trauma, physical trauma, or emotional trauma, such as neglect (i.e. the absence of basic needs being fulfilled).

Type A traumas include things such as abandonment, malnutrition, lack of affection or attention, absence of age-appropriate limits, an unhealthy emotional environment in the home, or even the lack of teaching basic life skills.

Although Type A traumas are less visible to the human eye than other types of trauma, they always cause damage, particularly when they occur during childhood years. Early Type A trauma impacts the brain’s ability to develop a stable personality and the emotional ability to process events. The effects of trauma, include fearful or aggressive behavior, ADHD, learning disabilities, attachment disorders, or physical development in the impacted child.

Types Of Trauma: Type B

Type B trauma results from specific traumatic events, such as physical, sexual, or verbal abuse; war; bullying, assault; a car accident; or a near-death experience—both when they are experienced and witnessed. The difference between these two categories of trauma is that Type B category events may not always result in trauma, depending on the strength of a person’s emotional and psychological development, particularly in early childhood. A person with a healthier environment in early childhood is much more likely to develop a capacity to handle traumatic events later in life.

Type B trauma occurs when the emotion in response to an event is stronger than the person’s capacity to deal with it. In response to the overload, the brain will shut off certain parts of the brain in a desperate attempt to survive. This is where depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, dissociation, or addictions can develop.

Studies show that around two-thirds of addicted adults had some type of childhood trauma. Addiction is often an attempt to self-medicate. For that reason, a teen going through a teen rehab treatment center program will very likely be led through trauma-informed care – a process of identifying events or situations that caused trauma.

“An estimated 70 percent of adults in the United States have experienced a traumatic event at least once in their lives and up to 20 percent of these people go on to develop posttraumatic stress disorder or PTSD.” — Sidran Traumatic Stress Institute, Inc.

Responses to trauma vary widely, and many people who experience trauma do not develop PTSD. However, for those who do, PTSD symptoms usually appear within several weeks of the trauma, but some people don’t experience symptoms until months or even years later.

When trauma goes unaddressed, it can perpetuate psychological, relational, and societal problems. For that reason, it’s extremely important to identify and treat it as soon as possible.

Facts about trauma and PTSD in teens:

  • Researchers at Columbia University and the New York State Psychiatric Institute reported that PTSD in teens is more common than in adults.

  • More than two-thirds of adolescents ages 17 and under-report having experienced a traumatic event.

  • More than 75 percent of children who experience a school shooting and approximately 90 percent of those who are sexually abused develop PTSD.

  • The stress caused by trauma can affect all aspects of a person’s life including mental, emotional, and physical well-being.

  • Research suggests that prolonged trauma may disrupt and alter brain chemistry. For some people, this may lead to the development of PTSD.

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