What Are Tiny Traumas? 

Shandra Martinez

| 3 min read

Sad mid adult man in the kitchen at home
When people talk about living through trauma, most people’s thoughts go to a large-scale event like being in a war zone, suffering a physical attack or sheltering in place during a destructive hurricane or tornado. But these days, more research is being done on smaller events that still can have physical and mental impacts on some people. These are called tiny traumas. Let’s look at what kinds of things can be called a tiny trauma, and what effects they can have on people.

What are tiny traumas? 

Tiny traumas can be described as a few different things. They can be an emotional life event like a relationship break-up or the death of a beloved pet. Sometimes, these events can cause a sudden or long-lasting emotional response. Tiny traumas can also describe the cumulative effect of a long list of smaller hurts, relationship issues or tension at work. When you add all these up, the overall impact can be traumatic.

Examples of tiny traumas

While traumatic events are unique to each person, here are some examples of issues that can be categorized as tiny traumas, according to Psychology Today:
  • Financial problems
  • Being sued or having legal issues
  • Divorce
  • Relationship issues with a close friend
  • Relationship issues with a significant other
  • Infidelity
  • Family drama
  • An unexpected or unwanted move to another home
How tiny traumas can make you feel. It’s important to take stock of how you feel when you’re going through issues like the ones above. While some people seem to weather them without too much upset, they can send others into a tailspin. Sometimes, these people are labeled as being dramatic or accused of blowing a situation out of proportion, but the truth is that everyone responds to things in their own way. What might not bother one person too much can be deeply troubling to another. Tiny traumas can make people feel helpless. They can make people feel in need of comfort and support.
The cumulative effect. In her recent book called Tiny Traumas, psychologist Dr. Meg Arroll discusses how these traumas can build up for some people until their cumulative effect takes a toll on emotional health. She describes microaggressions, family issues, even dealing with people’s “toxic positivity” as small traumas that can add up to larger problems for people. Some negative side effects of this tiny trauma build-up can include: 
  • Sleep issues
  • Snacking on junk food for comfort
  • Anxiety
  • A desire to create perfection in other parts of life

Larger impacts

According to the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, some traumas can have longer-lasting or more serious impacts. These include:
  • Drug addiction
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Mental health disorders
  • Engaging in risky behaviors

Treating tiny traumas

According to the research shared by Psychology Today, the one path that does not work when dealing with any trauma is avoidance. Pretending these feelings don’t exist is not a path to treatment or healing. Talking to a healthcare professional about these feelings is the first step toward working through them. Different treatment plans can address each person’s unique situation, but most traumas can be lessened through this type of one-on-one help.
Photo credit: Getty Images

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