A term used to define a single or repeated overwhelming stressful event, such as emotional or physical abuse, violence, loss, severe accidents, environmental events, which alter a person’s psychological condition and in all probability the brain. Such events are not only terrifying and painful, but may lead to ongoing fear of a repetition of the experience. The fear of repetition of the past feelings or events, triggered perhaps by a smell or sound, then “activates” an involuntary response. Trauma often leaves people mentally disorganized and anxious, suffering loss of cognitive functions and normal emotional responses. This is referred to by psychiatry as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder(PTSD), a term now used colloquially as well. In PTSD people can be numb or agitated, masking their symptoms or dysfunctional, but any heightened emotional or physical stress will bring about definite symptoms of fear.
It might be useful and specifically relevant to this discussion to include Freud’s statement that the effect of trauma on a person “shatters the foundations of his (sic) life (as a result of which) he abandons all interest in the present and future and remains permanently absorbed in mental concentration on the past” (1917, Introductory Lectures)