Acute trauma is a single traumatic event, such as a car accident. Chronic trauma is prolonged or repeated traumatic incidents, such as combat or domestic abuse. Complex trauma is a combination of acute and chronic trauma, which often occurs in childhood, that alters many aspects of development and of the sense of self. Philip Holcombe is an Army psychologist who serves as head of clinical recommendations at the Deployment Clinical Health Center of the Centers of Excellence in Defense for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injuries.
During traumatic experiences, the child's brain is in a state of greater stress and hormones related to fear are activated.