Can people become more resilient after experiencing trauma?

Can people become more resilient after experiencing trauma?


Stereotypical images of sorrow, loss, and hopelessness are often associated with a person who has lived through something traumatic. Life crises, accidents, and negative experiences are generally inevitable in everyone’s lives. However, post-traumatic growth (PTG) is the theory that a positive personality change is possible after someone experiences a traumatic life event. This theme exists in ancient spiritualities, literature, and philosophy, but the actual study of this phenomenon is somewhat new.


After facing a difficult circumstance or adversity, through PTG, someone might manifest a positive psychological change, which helps them operate and function at a higher level than before their traumatic event. Large life events often play a significant role in one’s transformation and growth, so, after exposure to a traumatic event, someone may display a wide range of consequences with their mental and physical health.


Post-traumatic growth is considered a process and outcome. Not only has someone experiencing PTG survived, but because of the transformation in their personality, they have implemented new and positive changes in their life. Some people can move onward and upward, but some people cannot.


With PTG, individuals often exhibit new optimism, positivity, and social support. Professionals use self-report scales like the Post-Traumatic Growth Inventory, which looks for positive responses in one’s appreciation of life, relationships, new possibilities, personal strength, and spiritual change.


Openness to experiences and extraversion are traits that make someone more likely to experience PTG. People who are more open, or extroverted, can generally reconsider belief systems. Extroverts are also generally more responsive and make reliable connections with others. Studies have also shown that women typically experience PTG more often than men, and that age can play a role in one’s reaction or growth.

Ongoing studies will only reveal more information as to why PTG does not seem to be universal. So, not everyone who faces a traumatic event will experience favorable growth.