Why Do Traumas Last So Long?

Why do traumas last so long?

In the labyrinth of the human mind and the complexity of its configuration, traumas can be understood as thorns that dig deep and, instead of healing, often seem to take root and become more complex over time. We can understand trauma as any overwhelming experience that leaves deep emotional scars. Understanding the persistence of their impact is crucial for the well-being of the people who have experienced them.

In this article, We are going to talk about what traumas are, how they are usually generated and why they can last so long. We will discuss how psychological, social, and biological factors can contribute to the duration of trauma and how the processing of these events plays a critical role in this process.

What is trauma?

To more fully understand why trauma can be so persistent and difficult to overcome, we must first define and understand what trauma is. In general terms, a trauma is the result of an overwhelming and distressing experience that exceeds a person’s ability to cope in effective ways. It may be the result of specific painful events, such as a serious car accident, or a traumatic childhood experience, such as parental abuse or neglect.

What distinguishes traumas among different people is their lasting impact on a person’s psychological well-being. Often, emotional distress, anxiety, stress, and other symptoms persist long after the traumatic event has taken place. It is important to keep in mind that traumas can vary in severity and origin. Some people may be more resilient and recover more quickly, while others may struggle for years or even decades with the emotional aftermath of trauma.

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Factors that contribute to the duration of trauma

As we have already mentioned, traumas can persist over time in a differential manner, which is generally explained thanks to a series of interrelated factors. Understanding these elements is essential to addressing why trauma can become ingrained in a person’s psychology. In this section, we will explore some of the key factors that influence the persistence of trauma:

1. Social support

Support from friends, family, and the community plays a critical role in trauma recovery. People who have strong support networks are often able to overcome the effects of trauma more quickly. On the other hand, a lack of social support can make recovery more difficult and prolonged.

2. Personal resilience

Resilience is the ability to adapt and recover from adversity. Some people have greater innate resilience, allowing them to cope with trauma more easily. Resilience can be strengthened through therapy and self-care.

3. Severity of trauma

The intensity and nature of the trauma play an important role in its duration. Extremely serious traumas, such as long-term abuse or war, tend to leave deeper and more persistent emotional scars.

4. Age at which trauma occurs

Traumas that occur in childhood can have a more lasting impact than traumas in adulthood, while they can be more costly to discover and, equally, to intervene on. This is because traumatic events during development can shape the personality and belief system of a developing person.

5. Cultural and social context

The cultural and social environment in which a person lives can also influence the duration of a trauma. Stigmatization or lack of access to mental health services They can prolong suffering.

6. Intrusive memories

Trauma is often characterized by intrusive memories, thoughts, and nightmares related to the traumatic event. The experience of this intrusion usually causes a lot of unexpected pain and makes the process of coping and overcoming the trauma itself difficult. These memories can keep the traumatic experience alive in a person’s mind, contributing to its persistence.

How do we process trauma?

Trauma processing is a fundamental process that influences its duration and how it affects a person over time. This process involves how a person organizes, understands and assimilates the traumatic experience in their life. In this section, we will explore and become aware of how trauma processing plays a crucial role in the persistence of these events in a person’s mind.

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When someone experiences trauma, their mind may be overwhelmed by intense emotions, fear, anxiety, and confusion. The process of trauma processing involves working through these emotions and thoughts to come to a more complete understanding of the traumatic event. Some of the key aspects of trauma processing include:

1. Emotional coping

People must deal with the overwhelming emotions associated with trauma and, most importantly, coping. Denying, avoiding, or suppressing these emotions can prolong the recovery process. Although it is painful, the first step to overcoming trauma is to recognize it and begin to focus your emotions towards it to understand and process it appropriately.

2. Narration of the experience

Talking about the trauma and sharing the experience with someone you trust or a mental health professional can help with processing. Verbalization of the experience can lead to a deeper understanding and, as we mentioned previously, begin the arduous path towards emotional confrontation with the trauma.

3. Reassessment of beliefs

With this coping and emotional understanding of the complexity of a trauma, the process of trauma processing begins. This often involves reviewing and reevaluating beliefs and assumptions about oneself and the world that may have been altered by the trauma, becoming aware of cognitive distortions that worsen the effects of these beliefs.

4. Learning and adaptation

As a person processes a trauma, You can learn effective coping strategies and develop greater emotional resilience. The objective of facing a trauma is, ultimately, to make it disappear and that any stimulus that previously aroused the trauma stops doing so and we can live a more normalized life and avoid these destabilizations.

5. Therapy and professional support

Therapy with a mental health professional experienced in trauma can be critical to processing and recovery. Therapeutic approaches such as cognitive behavioral therapy and EMDR are designed to help people process their traumas.

The role of memory

Memory plays an essential role in the persistence of trauma. Traumatic events often remain intense and vivid in memory, and these intrusive memories can contribute to the persistence of trauma. Next, we will explore how memory plays a fundamental role in the duration of trauma.

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1. Traumatic memory

Traumas often create highly vivid and disturbing memories. The images, sounds, and sensations associated with the traumatic event can persist intrusively in the person’s mind, even years after the trauma occurred.

2. Trauma retraining

Traumatic memories can be reactivated by situations, smells, sounds or experiences that resemble the original event in some way. This can lead the person to emotionally relive the trauma, prolonging its influence.

3. Impact on daily life

Intrusive memories can affect a person’s daily life by causing anxiety, stress and dissociation. This can make it difficult to concentrate, work, and have interpersonal relationships.

4. Therapy and desensitization

Exposure therapy and desensitization can help people address and process traumatic memories reducing its intrusive power and restructuring the cognitive distortions of memory associated with the traumatic event or the trauma itself.

Impact on mental health

Prolonged trauma can have a significant impact on a person’s mental health. As they persist in the mind, these traumas can trigger a series of psychological and emotional problems that affect quality of life. In this section, we will explore how long-lasting trauma can influence a person’s mental health and well-being.

1. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

People with PTSD may experience flashbacks, nightmares, hypervigilance, and avoidance of trauma-related situations. These symptoms can be debilitating and affect a person’s ability to live a normal life.

2. Depression

Prolonged trauma is also associated with an increased risk of depression. Persistent sadness, lack of interest in daily activities, and fatigue are common symptoms of depression.

3. Anxiety

Anxiety is another common consequence of prolonged trauma. Panic attacks, generalized anxiety disorders, and phobias are examples of anxiety problems that can develop as a result of long-lasting trauma.

4. Substance abuse

For some people, substance abuse can be a form of self-medication to cope with the emotional and psychological symptoms of prolonged trauma leading to the possibility of addictive problems.


In conclusion, the duration of trauma is due to a complex interaction of psychological, social and biological factors. Trauma processing, the persistence of traumatic memories, and the impact on mental health can keep the traumatic experience alive.

However, with the right support and therapeutic strategies, people can work toward recovery and overcoming lasting trauma, thereby regaining their emotional and psychological well-being.