Tamar Rodney, PhD, PMHNP-BC: Every Person's Reaction to Trauma Is Different

Individuals react differently to trauma based on their prior experiences, predispositions, and risk factors.

There is no timeline, no genetic weakness, no definitive how-to guide.

People reacting to trauma need to give themselves the time and respect to process their experiences in ways that work best for them.

Tamar Rodney, PhD, PMHNP-BC, CNE is an assistant professor at Johns Hopkins School of Nursing. Her research and clinical work focus primarily on improving PTSD diagnosis and treatment.

For information about treatments for PTSD please visit The Treatment Hub.

Why do individuals experience trauma differently is a question that is an age-old question, and one of the easiest things to think about in asking this very complex question is what else is going on in that situation that might be protective for that individual.

Is it someone else that is there and that is able to offer them support, that they were there so they understand what they might go through? Are there other factors that are in place, meaning did the individual carry a history of trauma or a previous event of that sort that makes that second experience or third experience worse? The other part is how much support do you have afterwards? You know, do you have someone to talk to? Is it believed? That’s another part. How seriously someone else processes that trauma with you.

So, those are all cumulative factors that changes the way someone would react towards what are ultimately negative events, but it comes down to what are your risk factors – I’m calling them - before and what happens after that event. There is no genetic weakness that comes with this, which is something that I think is really important to understand. There is no timeline on when you are expected to react negatively to an event. So, you also need to give yourself some time to process how you might feel about something. And if it comes up five years later, we deal with it then. And so, it’s in those that I hope that we see differences in reaction, but it might not be immediate, and be patient with those individuals as they go through that process.

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Posted on BrainLine November 23, 2021. Reviewed November 23, 2021.