Is There A Difference Between Abuse And Trauma?


Is there a difference between abuse and trauma? If so, what is it? Is it abuse if you can’t feel being hit. I used to know I was about to be hit but then it was as if someone turned the light out and I didn’t remember anything. I’m struggling with “If you can’t feel it, it didn’t happen right”?

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There is a difference between abuse and trauma. Abuse happens whenever someone fails to respect the rights and dignity of another. There are many degrees and types of abuse, some minor in nature and some very serious. Verbal abuse (calling someone names and putting them down) is a medium serious form of abuse. Hitting someone (physical abuse) is a very serious form of abuse. You would appear to be being physically, and thus rather seriously, abused. Please, read our Abuse article to become clearer on the danger you are in, and the need for you to take immediate action to exit your dangerous relationship.

The relationship between abuse and trauma, which refers to a type of injury, is that abuse can lead to trauma. Not everyone who has been abused, becomes traumatized, however.


The word “trauma” has different but related meanings depending on what professionals use it. In medicine, it seems to mean “serious physical injury”. In mental health, the term refers to a serious psychological injury. The funny thing is, that since the mind and the body are connected things, a psychological injury can cause real physical problems, and a physical injury can cause mental problems.

People use the word trauma lightly in conversation, for instance, talking about their recent breakup as being traumatic to them, but this sort of thing, though painful, is not really a trauma. A real mental health trauma usually occurs when someone has been exposed to real violence with the very real possiblity of death occuring, or being a witness or participant to violent death, murder or atrocity. Torture victims, rape victims, accident victims, combat veterans, and (yes) victims of serious and violent abuse qualify. Broken hearted boy and girlfriends are in real pain, but it is not really a traumatic injury.

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Some people are exposed to a trauma and they recover from it. Some other people don’t recover so well. Post-traumatic stress disorder (and acute stress disorder) occurs when traumatized people get stuck processing their trauma and can’t get on with their lives. They deal with three types of disturbing symptoms. First, they suffer from intrusive thoughts and memories and dreams of their traumatic situation. Second, they try to escape from and avoid their trauma memories, but doing so severely restricts the quality of their life. Third, they are jumpy, hyped up and anxious (“ready for action”) at all times; they can’t relax or calm down. There is helpful therapy for PTSD and ASD, but it isn’t necessarily a 100% cure. The earlier a traumatized person goes for help, the better chance there is for them feeling better.

You mention that you are actively being abused in a violent manner, and that you black out before the blows land so that you don’t feel them. This suggests the possibility that you are dissociating during abuse episodes. Dissociation occurs when parts of your memory (which are normally all accessible to you whenever you look for them) get hidden away from you in some fashion that is not very well understood. Amnesia (loss of memory) can result. Dissociation is one way that some people try to escape from their trauma or abuse; it is associated with trauma and PTSD. There are also a number of dissociative disorders that can occur. The most severe of these, dissociative identity disorder, which used to be called multiple personality disorder, tends to occur when someone has a talent for dissociation, and uses that talent to escape from chronic abuse begining at a very young age. That person’s personality and memories become dissociated prior to the time they have formed their regular personality, and so what tends to happen is that they end up with multiple fragments of normal personality that are dis-integrated from one another.

It is possible you are dissociating to escape from the violence, but it is also possible that you are not remembering things becuase of brain damage caused by the blows. Only a trained psychiatrist or neurologist will be able to tell the difference. Either way, you really should have yourself checked out by a psychiatrist who can diagnose and prescribe appropriate treatment.

It doesn’t matter if you cannot feel it when you are hit. You are still being hit. It is real. It is happening. It can result in you becoming seriously injured or even dying. You need to do something to escape it, and soon.

Now that I’ve answered some of your questions, please answer one that I have for you: What are you doing in this relationship where you’re being regularly beaten !!!??? Your life is in danger. In no uncertain terms, you should leave this man as soon as possible, retreating to a battered womans’s shelter or to relatives. Go somewhere safe and make a new life for yourself. When you’re in this sort of violent battering relationship, the only sane response is to leave it. At the very least, call your local women’s shelter and ask them about groups or counseling. Please get some help.

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