Defining Trauma: Terminology and Generic Stressor Dimensions1


  • Bonnie L. Green

    1. Traumatic Stress Study Center, University of Cincinnati College of Medicine
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    • 2

      Requests for reprints should be sent to Bonnie L. Green, Ph.D., Department of Psychiatry, Georgetown University Medical School, Washington, D.C. 20007–2197.

  • 1

    I would like to thank my colleagues Jacob Lindy, M.D., and Mary Grace, M.Ed., M.S., for their comments on an earlier draft of this manuscript.


The present report discusses vague and/ or confusing terminology that is employed in research and clinical work in the area of “traumatic stress”. It divides the stress process into three major aspects and suggests appropriate terminology for each aspect, focusing on the input, or stressor, aspect. Eight generic stressor dimensions are suggested that cut across different types of traumatic events, along with research supporting the association of these dimensions with stress responses. Recommendations are made for future research directions.