Types of trauma

A single traumatic event such as a fire has been termed 'type I trauma'. By contrast, repeated, prolonged trauma, such as child abuse, has been denoted type II trauma. It has been suggested that these result in different reactions in the patient and in their family and friends. In type I trauma, the event will be clearly remembered and acknowledged and the patient will receive support from family and friends.

By contrast, type II trauma is said to be poorly remembered, and to be associated with more severe symptoms. This is a controversial area, involving the disputed 'recovered memories', as Brandon et al. (1998): 'When memories are "recovered" after long periods of amnesia, particularly when extraordinary means were used to secure the recovery of memory, there is a high probability that the memories are false, i.e. of incidents that had not occurred.'

What about the 'post' in PTSD? Since the concept was formulated, it has become clear that the delay between trauma and onset of symptoms - to which the 'post' in PTSD refers - only occurs in a minority of patients (e.g. 10-20 per cent). The vast majority develop symptoms straightaway.

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