A question that many ask about Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is what exactly constitutes a “traumatic event?”

After all, PTSD does feature the word “traumatic” in it. This can result in some confusion, and some people with PTSD not seeking help out of an erroneous belief that what they have gone through isn’t deemed traumatic.

The truth is, there is no set answer to this question, but there are certain guidelines that should be taken into account.

Several events can be considered traumatic

The difference between traumatic and upsetting

One of the first key points to make is that there is a distinctive difference between a traumatic event and an upsetting event.

An upsetting event like a job loss, relationship break up or being unable to pass the interview stage of a job application process – are not the same as a traumatic event.

Sadness and low mood as a reaction of an upsetting event may develop into Depression or an Adjustment Disorder, but it is rare for it to become PTSD.

Instead, PTSD involves a traumatic event, which goes beyond an upsetting event. The vast majority of people get over an upsetting event, but traumatic events are much more difficult to overcome.

Possible examples

Examples of traumatic events include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Witnessing warfare
  • Military combat
  • Being the victim of an assault
  • Road accidents
  • Rape or other sexual abuse
  • Witnessing an act of extreme violence
  • Terrorist attack or hostage situation
  • Natural disaster such as a Tsunami
  • Sudden death of a friend or family member
  • Severe injury

The need for symptoms to be present

In terms of the diagnosis of PTSD, for an event to be considered traumatic, certain symptoms would normally appear. These include:

  • Re-Experiencing such as flashbacks, nightmares and disturbed thoughts
  • Avoidance such as avoiding people and places that remind the individual of the traumatic event, and withdrawing themselves from others
  • Psychological symptoms like trouble sleeping, anger, guilt and anxiety

Someone who is reexperiencing a traumatic event may have constant thoughts about the event. As part of rumination, they may wonder why the event happened to them.

They may also try and work out if there was something they could’ve done to stop the event. Feelings of guilt and shame are commonplace as a result.

PTSD also commonly occurs alongside other mental health conditions like Depression, Anxiety, or a type of Personality Disorder.


Overall, while there is no clear checklist of what a traumatic event is, the easiest way of looking at it is that the event needs to be severe enough to induce the symptoms listed above.

What is most important though is that anyone who is experiencing difficulties from a past event – whether or not they may see it as traumatic or not – should seek treatment to help them see an improvement in their oral health.

See Also


This website should be used purely for informational purposes, and does not intend to, nor should it ever, be used as a replacement for professional medical advice.

We strive to keep all of our pages updated, and ensure that our website is full of factual and in-depth information. However, we encourage you to browse this website with care.

As a reminder, this website and all content within it cannot and should not replace the advice of a trained medical professional. You can read our full disclaimer at this link.


If you are struggling with your mental health, help is available. With the right support and treatment, you can make a recovery. For information on helplines, or if you are in a state of crisis, please visit our crisis page by clicking on the relevant link for your geographical location (United Kingdom), (United States), (International). You can also see how to get mental health treatment and the process involved by clicking this link.