Causes Of Emotional Trauma And How To Move Past It

Updated March 5, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Emotional trauma may occur when an individual is subjected to something terrible or horrific. In many cases, emotional trauma can lay dormant and manifest in undesirable ways if it's not effectively dealt with. Each person is different, and some individuals may be more susceptible to emotional trauma than others. 

A Closer Look At Emotional Trauma

The American Psychological Association explains the many impacts that trauma can have on a human being. Denial and shock are common responses, especially as the human psyche struggles to come to terms with what has happened. Emotional trauma can also have mental and even physical impacts. It's not uncommon for traumatized individuals to experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), headaches, and trouble connecting with others, for example.

When emotional trauma is not dealt with, it can ripple out and have long-lasting, harmful impacts on the lives of afflicted individuals and those around them. It can also lead to mental health issues. Perhaps the first step to healing from trauma is acknowledging and addressing the events that triggered emotional trauma. 

What Causes Emotional Trauma?

Emotional Trauma Is Real

There are many different circumstances that can cause someone to experience emotional trauma. Not everyone has the same threshold for pain or trauma. Still, there are some common causes of emotional trauma. 


Abandonment can easily engender emotional trauma, particularly if the individual has an intimate relationship with the person who abandoned them. There are different reasons why someone may face abandonment. The person who left may have personal issues of their own and lack healthy coping mechanisms. The reasons for abandonment do not erase the emotional trauma that  tends to follow, though. Instead, the impact of this trauma can manifests in various forms.

Constant subjection to negative influences (even after abandonment), general mistrust of others, and self-destructive behavior are only a few signs that someone is experiencing trauma. In many cases, when someone experiences abandonment, they may begin to question why the person left or what they could have done to prevent the abandonment. This can be a  dark, depressing place to fall into. 


In many regards, depression is a form of emotional trauma. However, the existence of depression can lead to further emotional trauma and worsen the downward spiral someone is already experiencing. There are  many factors that can cause depression. Hereditary traits, exposure to negative environments, and even other mental illnesses are just a few examples. No two people experience depression in the same manner, but depression can lead to further emotional trauma if it is allowed to fester.


Abuse can take place in many different forms, and it is one of the most common culprits of emotional trauma as well as other mental health issues. Abuse occurs when one person exerts power over another in a way that causes harm. When this happens, the victim is put in a position where they often feel vulnerable, helpless, and unsure of how to fight back.

In the aftermath of abuse, many people tend to wonder if they did something to provoke the abuse or mistreatment. This is a common emotional and psychological mind game that abusers often wield against their victims.  A victim is never responsible for the actions of their abuser. This is important for anyone who is going through emotional trauma to be aware of. 

Emotional Trauma Is Real


Regret  is not commonly regarded as a source of trauma. However, spending excessive amounts of time wondering what could have been or what one should have done differently can cause emotional trauma. People may carry regrets about past relationships, missed opportunities, and other things from the past. A person who is unable to let go of regrets can experience trauma, which may have a  way of rippling out in other negative ways. Perhaps one of the best ways to process regret is to take note of the lessons learned and apply them in the future, should the need arise.

Working Through Emotional Trauma

Emotional trauma presents a significant challenge, but that doesn’t mean it is impossible to get through or overcome. The process of recovery can take time, and each individual may have their own way of working through past experiences that were upsetting or traumatic. Having some proven ways of dealing with emotional trauma can help with the recovery process and ensure that people can successfully move forward with their lives.

Employ Healthy Coping Mechanisms

It could be that one of the best ways to ensure that you are effectively dealing with emotional trauma is to consider your coping mechanisms. Ideally, these mechanisms are constructive and help you enjoy a better quality of life. These can include working out, taking a recreational class, or engaging in a new artistic hobby. By contrast, consider steering clear of any unhealthy coping mechanisms such as the consumption of drugs or alcohol. Consuming unhealthy substances can worsen the trauma and exacerbate the associated symptoms.

Don't Rush Yourself

Many people are led to believe that they need to get over things quickly. Everyone works through past hurts and deals with emotions on their own time, though. The desire to return to normalcy is understandable. By the same token, individuals who are going through emotional trauma my also need to give themselves time to heal. When emotional trauma is involved, focusing on yourself is what matters most.

Talk With A Professional

In many situations,  people experiencing emotional pain may feel alone. Talking with a professional therapist is a proven coping method for dealing with emotional trauma. It's normal to have certain concerns or reservations, though. Many people worry about revealing intimate details about themselves with a stranger, especially in an in-person setting. You may feel more comfortable in an online setting. Online therapy is a convenient alternative to traditional, office-based therapy that can be accessed from home or anywhere you have an Internet connection. 

This type of therapy has been repeatedly proven effective through scholarly research in the field of psychology. A recent study involving female college students revealed that online mental health interventions had a positive effect. Participants in the study reported fewer symptoms of both post-traumatic stress and depression following online cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). 


Everyone faces challenges in life, but knowing that there is someone in your corner to support and guide you can provide significant relief. If you are open to the idea of working with a therapist, BetterHelp has qualified therapists waiting to hear from you. . When you have the right support system and tools for recovery, life’s obstacles and hardships can be a lot less daunting. Get matched with a therapist and begin your healing journey today.

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