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Trauma is not one size fits all. Trauma is not exclusively for those who were physically abused. Trauma is relative and affects everyone differently- so why are so many teenagers so eager to prove that they had it the worst?

I recently came across a few “Put a finger down” videos on TikTok about childhood emotional abuse – unfortunately, instead of supporting each other and the original poster, the comment section was filled with rhetoric like “this isn’t real trauma,” “I had it worse, this doesn’t count,” “it could be much worse,” “my parents actually abused me, stop being sensitive,” and more. The idea that trauma can be placed on a linear scale of “not that bad” to “the worst” is a dangerous way of thinking. Thinking like this invalidates millions of peoples’ actual trauma and prevents them from seeking help.

Imagine saying that your loved one is sick only to be met with “yeah, well mine died.” Imagine going through something that completely breaks you down only to be told that you don’t have the right to overreact- it’s not fair and it benefits nobody. While it might make someone feel better about themselves in the moment, and maybe they’ll feel like they’re a stronger person who can handle anything, that’s just not true. People are complex, and having different reactions to negative experiences is part of that. Belittling and comparing trauma completely disrupts the healing process.

The attitude that mental illness and trauma is a competition isn’t new- I remember so many similarly toxic conversations on tumblr back in 2014. So many people were led to believe that what they experienced “wasn’t bad enough.” The truth is that if something that happened to you is affecting you negatively, it IS “bad enough” for you to get help.

I was emotionally abused by a friend about 7 years ago, and it still affects every part of me. I have trouble making friends, it takes me a very long time to open up, and I have a general mistrust of people. My brain was altered during a crucial time in development. What I went through might not seem “as bad” as other traumas, but I am still valid. People can develop PTSD from emotional abuse, no matter how “insignificant” it may seem to some. Different forms of trauma cannot be compared.

Usually the most helpful response to someone else explaining their trauma is just to listen. Don’t compare, just listen. We’re all on the same side, we’re all trying to heal, and there’s no need to turn trauma into a competition.

Julia Spina is a sophomore double majoring in Psychology and Sociology at the University of Delaware. She is interested in studying mental illness and aspires to become a clinical psychologist. She enjoys singing, listening to Taylor Swift and emo music, photography, astrology, and skateboarding in her free time.
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