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Consequences of Exposure to Traumatic Stressors


We rarely know what traumatic events other people have experienced in their lives. Exposure to trauma is common and likely to affect clients seeking workforce development services. Incorporating trauma-informed care into your work with jobseekers will increase the likelihood that both you and your clients will experience success. 

Trauma can result from a wide range of intense and overwhelming events such as natural disasters, criminal justice system involvement, sexual abuse, and homicide or sudden death of a parent or loved one. Trauma can also result from chronically stressful events such as ongoing housing or food instability, inability to pay one’s bills, and living in an unsafe neighborhood.


Individuals with a history of adverse life experiences are much more likely to have

  • Poor mental and physical health

  • Low self-esteem and self-confidence

  • Cognitive impairment and limited education

  • Substance abuse

  • History of incarceration 

Chronic trauma can also negatively affect 

  • Fatigue

  • Memory

  • Concentration

  • Planning

  • Problem-solving and decision making 

Often, people coping with trauma also have underdeveloped interpersonal skills that reduce their ability to 

  • Read social cues and adjust their behavior to the expectations of the context

  • Resolve conflicts

  • Receive criticism

  • Maintain relationships 


All of these effects of exposure to traumatic life experiences lead to unemployment and underemployment. 

Thankfully, clients can be supported to manage the negative effects of exposure to traumatic life experiences through trauma-informed services, which are strategies and interventions that accurately identify and respond to the underlying psychological, emotional, and behavioral problems that are preventing them from progressing.

When the events of our lives overwhelm our abilities to cope we can be left feeling hopeless and unable to make the best decisions for ourselves and loved ones. Many turn to alcohol and other substances for relief, which further reduces the ability to cope with life’s challenges. With regard to the ability to become economically stable, trauma can impair our ability to focus on education and training, muster the self-motivation needed to search for and gain employment, and engage in the self-regulation needed to maintain employment.

Adapted from SAMHSA's Trauma Informed Care framework.


Symptoms of Unresolved Trauma and How They Show Up In Clients’ Behaviors

Trauma Symptoms

What This May Look Like For Your Clients


A feeling of shame; an innate feeling that they are bad, worthless, or without importance


Lack of quality of work


Flashbacks, nightmares, and body memories regarding the

traumatic event


Lack of motivation


Suffering from chronic or ongoing depression


Isolating themselves from others


Practicing avoidance of people, places, or things related to the traumatic event; including avoidance of unpleasant emotions


Easily startled or may seem to drift "off in space" a lot


Addiction and eating disorders in an attempt to escape or numb negative emotions


Eating excessively during work / not eating during work


Sleeping issues including trouble going to sleep or staying asleep


Being late to work and/or falling asleep at the job


Suffering from feelings of detachment, or feeling "dead inside;" creates a feeling of loneliness and isolation


Disengaged during meetings and discussions


Uncontrollable anger; acting on it


Conflict with co-workers


Not being able to tolerate conflicts as they once would have


Very irritable and impatient


Unexplained or irrational fears of people, places, and things


Reclusive and avoids social interaction

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