1. Health

Traumatic Event


Updated August 26, 2009


People often use the word "traumatic" to describe very stressful life events. However, mental health professionals define a traumatic event in a very specific way, especially when trying to determine whether or not a person may have posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The 4th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders defines a traumatic event as a situation where both of the following occurred:

  • The person experienced, witnessed, or was confronted with an event where there was the threat of or actual death or serious injury. The event may also have involved a threat to the person's physical well-being or the physical well-being of another person.

  • The person responded to the event with strong feelings of fear, helplessness or horror.
Also Known As: trauma, traumatic experience, psychological trauma
Related Video
Assembling an Event Guest List
Managing an Event on the Day
  1. About.com
  2. Health
  3. Post Traumatic Stress (PTSD)
  4. Glossary
  5. Traumatic Event - Definition of a Traumatic Event

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.

We comply with the HONcode standard
for trustworthy health
information: verify here.