According to the American Psychological Association, trauma is defined as an emotional response to a terrible event like an accident or natural disaster.

"Immediately after the event, shock and denial are typical. Longer term reactions include unpredictable emotions, flashbacks, strained relationships, and even physical symptoms like headaches or nausea," the organization says.

But trauma can alter your behavior in the long term — and there are ways to tell when people have gone through some that might not always be readily apparent.

People shared their thoughts with us after Redditor FriedWanderer asked the online community,

"What's a subtle sign that someone has been through some s**t?"

"Their reactions to most things..."

"Disproportionate reactions. Their reactions to most things are normal or even low key, but occasionally they have a huge response to something minor. Key sign of trauma."



People who've dealt with trauma are so used to any reaction resulting in more pain that they push emotions down and bottle them up, so their reaction to things is minimal.

Then finally that one thing happens that's an inch too far and they physically can't push it down anymore, and all that stifled emotion comes out at once over something trivial.

Paying very close attention...

"Paying very close attention to people's expressions and body language (mostly to see if they're annoyed/angry), under-reacting to things, and over-explaining things that probably seem inconsequential to most."


Anticipation provides time to flee or defuse conflict.

"They seem to wait..."

"They seem to wait for bad things to happen and can’t imagine a good or normal outcome."


Always expect the worst.

You're either always right, or pleasantly surprised.

"When you see someone deal..."

"When you see someone deal with something extremely emotionally damaging or physically painful and they act like they don't even notice it, like nothing's changed. When you see that you know they've seen the worst and nothing is gonna get to them."


Very little gets to you, for better or for worse. It becomes difficult to enjoy the things you once cared about.

"Lack of trust."

"Lack of trust. No trust falls, no matter the person."


You won’t trust anyone even a tiny bit. You might make it look like you do a bit just to not make yourself look weird but you wouldn’t trust anyone with anything no matter what or who.

"They have advice--good advice--for people who've just experienced trauma. Or for how to handle oddly specific and f**ked up situations."


Especially when talking with people about dealing with some difficult subjects like mental illness; or other horrible situations.

"Not wanting..."

"Not wanting to bring up anything from their past."


And just smiling when asked.

"Most people..."

"Preparation. Most people who've dealt with horrendous situations now prepare for the proverbial worst."


You only have to fall down the ladder and hit every rung on the way down to learn that lesson.


"Apologizing often, for things not their fault."


It's a defense mechanism — and one of the more common ones.

"The maturity..."

"The maturity with which they handle unexpected events."


Especially from a young age.

Trauma can absolutely change a person's life. If you can relate to any of these, there is help out there.

If you or someone you know is suicidal or in emotional distress, contact the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. Trained crisis workers are available to talk 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Your confidential and toll-free call goes to the nearest crisis center in the Lifeline national network. These centers provide crisis counseling and mental health referrals.

Call or text 988 or chat

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