There are many different types of experiences that can be traumatic and many of them impact college students. These may occur while they are a student at SDSU or prior to enrollment. People also react very differently to traumatic situations, which may lead to them questioning their reaction.

However, the vast majority of the time, the manner at which someone responds is very understandable and normal. If the reaction is more intense, it may interfere with the student’s ability to function normally for a period of time and, in certain cases, may lead to students taking time off from school.

Some examples of traumas include:

  • Sexual Assault
  • Relationship violence
  • Physical Assault
  • Vehicle Accidents
  • Having a friend or family be harmed or pass away
  • National or international tragedies (e.g. COVID-19, 9/11, etc.)
  • Natural disasters
  • Mass shootings
  • Combat experience in the military

One common reaction from people that experience certain traumas is discomfort in crowded spaces. Attending SDSU can certainly bring about this, particularly walking around campus, being in the library, or attending large lectures. While this may not be as present while we are distance learning, it may come up in other areas if we do leave our homes and  find ourselves in a surprisingly crowed space. Examples of this may be visiting the grocery store or larger stores, such as Target.


One of the most common reactions to trauma is to avoid thinking about what happened. This may include avoiding anything that reminds the student of the event (e.g. places, people, smells, etc.).

It is not recommended that people immediately force themselves to address everything that reminds them of the incident, as this can be overwhelming in certain cases, but that they focus on avoiding avoidance when possible.

This can be particularly helpful to utilize the support of a mental health professional. If trauma remains unaddressed, it is unlikely it will go away and may impact the person in certain ways in the future.

One way to avoid avoidance is to journal your thoughts and feelings. This can allow the person to reflect on these issues in a safer space.

As with any emotion, there is often something that triggers the feeling of distress related to a traumatic event. Some common triggers can be related to things that remind you of the event, including places, people, smell, and others.

There are many more, of course, but it is important for you to determine what your personal triggers are. One way you can do this is to think back at some of the more recent times that you became very distressed and try to notice if there are any similarities with those situations.

Identifying what your effective personal coping skills are can be a good strategy for coping with trauma. For anxiety, there may be activities that you engage in that help take your mind off of what is worrying you.

Some common coping strategies for distress are exercise, talking to a supportive friend or family member, or listening to music. It is important to note that there may be times that a preferred coping skill, such as going for a run when it is dark outside, may also increase distress.

In these cases, individuals can decide whether or not it makes sense in that moment to use that skill. There are more aspects to identifying what coping strategies work for you and to learn more about coping, follow this link.

Using deep, diaphragmatic breathing can help with feeling distress. In general, when we begin to experience the emotion of anxiety, particularly as it relates to trauma, our body begins to react physiologically.

Sometimes this results in our body going into full ‘fight or flight’ mode, where we have many intense physical reactions, many of which are described above in the signs and symptoms section. Using deep breathing can help us calm down and feel more relaxed.

This can be done through the use of apps, biofeedback equipment, or other means. To learn more, please look at our deep breathing section. If you are interested in learning more about biofeedback specifically, please go to our biofeedback page here.


Start with one minute, then aim to do 7 minutes each time.
Reach out to them to check in. You can decide how much you want to disclose to them.
See if you can do at least one of them each day.



  • ULifeline is a nice resource for information on college mental health
  • Psychology Today provides additional information on trauma as well
  • For on campus resources for trauma related to relationship violence, please visit the SDSU Title IX page.