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Concept for a Tool for Measuring Trauma and The Likelihood for Developing PTSD

Table of Contents

by Heidi Hanson

artist, writer, trauma survivor

Numerous Factors Contributing to PTSD

Note that there is a more developed version of this graphic here.

This graphic depicts many different characteristics of what could be referred to as “Big T” trauma. I consider “Big T” trauma to refer to one impactful event or a time period of extreme stress with a clear beginning and end. The items listed in this graphic could be turned into a questionnaire that results in a score measuring the severity of the traumatic event, impact of the trauma on the victim, vulnerability of the victim, coping capacity of the victim and the amount of support available, resulting in a final score related to the likelihood of developing PTSD symptoms.

Everyone’s Amount of Exposure to Trauma and Vulnerabilities to Developing PTSD are Different

About 4 years after the traumatic events I went through, I began to be able to think about them briefly without risking being triggered by bringing up memories. I began wondering how each specific factor might have contributed to my developing PTSD. For example, during the second medical accident, I believed I was dying for about 2 weeks. Some people who are involved in combat are under threat of death for say 6 months, but do not ever believe they are dying. Each of these scenarios would have a strong, lasting impact on a person, but due to having slightly different characteristics the results may be slightly different for each person.

This Illustration could probably have some more factors added. In the traumatic event section, there could be a factor asking whether it is In series (several deployments, a number of incidents of violence) or one time event. Some factors could be added to “Support,” such as amount of family support, partner support, friends support, support at work, medical support, government support, support from society (media, for example), support from nonprofit agencies, educational support, and support through group activities. Support could be expanded to its own Illustration about Recovery which would  include all the things one can do to recover: traditional therapy, somatic therapy, exposure therapy, physical exercise, etc.

I could create additional illustrations for Measuring Childhood Trauma, Measuring Recovery from Trauma, Measuring Loss and Grief related to Trauma, and Measuring Ongoing Trauma, as in the case of abusive relationships, workplaces, or school settings.


Heidi Hanson is an artist and writer in Asheville, North Carolina currently working on an illustrated book chronicling her journey healing from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

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