What Defines Trauma? Earlier versions of DSM defined trauma as an event “outside the range of usual human experience.” Unfortunately, many traumatic stressors are a common part of human experience. Thus, DSM-IV-TR defines trauma as (1) the experience of an event involving actual or threatened death or serious injury to self or others and (2) a response of intense fear, helplessness, or horror in reaction to the event. One controversy is whether PTSD can be caused by indirect exposure to trauma, such as seeing horrible scenes of 9/11 on television (Neria & Galea as cited in Oltmanns & Emery, 2012).
Oltmanns, T. F. & Emery, R. E. (2012). Abnormal psychology (7th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.