Before you look at this page, if you haven’t already, please have a look at our page on:

Trauma Basics


Alternatively, if you prefer to watch a video…

We also have a short video:

What is Trauma?


What is Poverty?

One definition of poverty is, the state or condition where people and communities cannot meet a minimum standard of living because they lack the proper resources. These include (but are not limited to) financial resources, basic healthcare and education, clean drinking water, and infrastructure.


Traditionally, poverty means the state of being extremely poor or not having material possessions to live adequately.

According to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation in real terms, poverty means not being able to heat your home, pay your rent, or buy the essentials for your children. It means waking up every day facing insecurity, uncertainty, and impossible decisions about money. It means facing marginalisation – and even discrimination – because of your financial circumstances. The constant stress it causes can lead to problems that deprive people of the chance to play a full part in society.


The Crysalys Foundation believes there are many types of poverty including:

• Food poverty / food insecurity is the condition of not having access to sufficient food, or food of an adequate quality, to meet one's basic needs.

• Emotional poverty is a deprivation of essential needs that connect to emotional and mental health such as the security of a stable home life or the giving and receiving of attention.


‘Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty.’ Mother Teresa


• Period poverty is a lack of access to menstrual products and education.

• Digital poverty is the lack of resources to or inability to interact fully with the online world.

• Footwear poverty is the lack of suitable footwear that is fit for purpose.

• Uniform poverty is the lack of clean, fitting and correct school uniforms that are fit for purpose.

• Energy poverty or fuel poverty is the lack of access to sustainable modern energy services and products. When energy bills represent a high percentage of consumers' income and they must reduce or cease their household's energy consumption to a degree that negatively affects their health and well-being.

• Financial poverty is if, at a young age, your caregiver lost their job, you grew up in poverty, or your basic needs are not met due to a financial struggle.

‘Poverty is the parent of revolution and crime.’ Aristotle


The Crysalys Foundation has devoted this Tackling Trauma page to look at Poverty Trauma. We believe that experiencing any kind of poverty can be traumatic with immediate and sometimes longer-term or lifetime impacts. The stigma of poverty creates divisions between “the poor” and the “non-poor,” the “haves” and “have nots” which serve to justify and maintain socioeconomic  inequalities, and can also cause people living in poverty to feel socially excluded, ashamed and add to their existing and or historical trauma.

We want to help you to understand the impacts of poverty and provide a wide range of resources and tools for you to access towards understanding, self-help and recovery.


Types of Poverty

Traditionally in the UK, poverty is measured using up to six distinct types. The first 2 types are mostly commonly used:

• Absolute poverty

Absolute poverty is when household income is below a certain level. This makes it impossible for the person or family to meet basic needs of life including food, shelter, safe drinking water, education, healthcare, etc. In the UK people in absolute low income are living in households with income below 60% of (inflation-adjusted) median income in a base year.

• Relative Poverty

Relative poverty is when households receive 50% less than average household incomes. So they do have some money but still not enough money to afford anything above the basics. This type of poverty is, on the other hand, changeable depending on the economic growth of the country. In the UK people in relative low income are living in households with income below 60% of the median in that year.

• Situational Poverty

• Generational Poverty

• Rural Poverty

• Urban Poverty


Globally, Extreme poverty is the most severe type of poverty, defined by the United Nations (UN) as

"a condition characterized by severe deprivation of basic human needs, including food, safe drinking water, sanitation facilities, health, shelter, education and information.”


‘Poverty is the worst form of violence.’ Mahatma Ghandi


UK Poverty Data

Median household disposable income in the UK was £32,300 in the financial year ending (FYE) 2022, a decrease of 0.6% from FYE 2021, based on estimates from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) Household Finances Survey.

So what does this mean for the UK population? In 2020-2021:

• One in five people in the UK (20% of the population) were in poverty

• 13.4 million people were in poverty

• 7.9 million people in poverty were working-age adults

• 3.9 million people in poverty were children

• More than one in four children in the UK were living in poverty (27%)

• 1.7 million people in poverty were pensioners

These figures are now likely to be much higher based on the impacts of Covid-19, the invasion of Ukraine and the cost of living crisis price increases affecting food, energy and fuel.

Throughout the last 25 years, children have consistently had the highest poverty rates closely followed by pensioners. Twenty-five years ago, a third of children lived in poverty.

In 2022, The Joseph Rowntree Foundation published a report, The Essential Guide to Understanding Poverty in the UK. If you want to find out more about poverty here is link to the full report:



How Poverty Affects People

Poverty creates many situations and feelings for everyone affected including various physical and emotional responses.

Physical responses to poverty

• Hunger

• Thirst

• Cold

• Tiredness

• Illness

• Unhealthy

• High stress causing physiological impacts such as high blood pressure and high cortisol levels

Poverty can affect the health of people at all ages.

In infancy, poverty is associated with a low birth weight, shorter life expectancy and a higher risk of death in the first year of life.

Lack of safe spaces to play and poor nutrition both contribute to an increased risk of obesity in early childhood, which can affect physical and mental health for a lifetime. The strain poverty creates on families negatively affects a young child's ability to learn. Children living in poverty are more likely to suffer from chronic diseases such as asthma and diet-related problems such as tooth decay, malnutrition, diabetes, and obesity.


Recent studies suggest that growing up in poverty leads to systematic changes in brain development. These changes involve the prefrontal cortex and affect so-called executive functions, such as self-regulation, planning, and emotional control.


Without enough money, elderly people often have to rely on cheap, high-calorie foods instead of purchasing fresh vegetables, fruits, meats and fish. This can lead to obesity and other health issues. Poverty also prevents seniors from having access to personal trainers, gyms, and other ways of maintaining fitness or receiving prompt treatments that are delayed (e.g. physiotherapy) or not available on the NHS.


Mind and emotional responses to poverty

• Depression

• Anxiety

• Inadequacy

• Ashamed

• Dependent

• Angry

• Scared

• Lonely

• Isolated

• Bored

• Desperate

• Excluded

• Suicidal

Those in poverty experience psychological distress, more financial hardship, worse physical health, and more isolation.

Poverty puts an additional strain on families, which can lead to parental mental health and relationship problems, financial problems and substance misuse (using alcohol and drugs to cope).

Impact of poverty


Over and above immediate financial hardship, those living with poverty also face stress, social isolation, shame and stigma. In the longer term, poverty affects people's health and wellbeing, limits their ability to live fulfilling lives and can lead to a wide range of lifelong negative outcomes.


Inequalities in society are associated with a significant increased risk of mental ill health. Poverty is a key player. People in poverty can face constant, high levels of stress, for example due to struggling to make ends meet, overcrowded or unsafe housing, fear of crime, and comparatively poor physical health.


Chronic or prolonged stress, such as the stress experienced by those who live in poverty, can negatively affect early brain development, potentially resulting in cognitive impairment and other long-term consequences for children.


Research has shown that poverty may pose challenges to both physical and mental health. For instance, those who live in poverty have shorter life expectancies and experience higher death rates.


Poverty is both a cause of mental health problems and a consequence.


Poverty in childhood and among adults can cause poor mental health through social stresses, stigma and trauma.


Living in poverty can be a traumatic experience. The effects of trauma can contribute to chronic poverty. Living in poverty increases the risk of traumatic experiences.


Statistics prove that children living in poor neighborhoods are more likely to suffer traumatic incidents, like witnessing or being the victims of violence, parental neglect or abuse.


Low-income young adults are more likely to have exposure to trauma, which increases risk for mental health problems.


Poverty trauma can be categorised as Chronic Trauma as poverty is usually a repeated and prolonged experience. Poverty is rarely a single or one-off event.


Poverty trauma maybe considered as Complex Trauma if a person experiences different trauma over time, for example experiencing a childhood trauma and then experiencing poverty later in life.


Poverty trauma can develop into post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).


Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

PTSD is an anxiety disorder caused by very stressful, frightening or distressing events. PTSD symptoms include:

• Panicking when reminded of the trauma

• Flashbacks (a PTSD flashback is when you relive your traumatic experience, and it feels like it is happening all over again right in that moment)

• Panic attacks (see section titled 'Panic Attacks' below)

• Being easily upset or angry

• Extreme alertness, also sometimes called 'hypervigilance'

• Disturbed sleep or a lack of sleep

• Nightmares / night terrors

• Irritability or aggressive behaviour

• Finding it hard to concentrate – including on simple or everyday tasks

• Memory loss

• Being jumpy or easily startled

If you have these symptoms for a period of more than one month, then the trauma is usually termed as being PTSD.

You can find out more about PTSD at:





Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD)

CPTSD is a condition where you experience some symptoms of PTSD along with some additional symptoms, such as: difficulty controlling your emotions, feeling very angry or distrustful towards the world. CPTSD is the experience of multiple and or chronic and prolonged, developmentally adverse traumatic events, most often of an interpersonal nature such as war. CPTSD symptoms can occur even years after the war has ended.

You can find out more about CPTSD at:




Panic Attacks

A panic attack is a feeling of sudden and intense panic (extreme anxiety) that normally starts and finishes abruptly lasting between five and twenty minutes, some can last up to an hour. They are very frightening experiences especially in the first attacks when you are not sure what is happening. Sometimes you may have specific feelings of fear or dread with an attack, such as feeling you are going to die immediately. This is not necessarily rational but the feeling is real and completely overwhelming.


Panic attacks can also have physical symptoms, including: shaking, feeling disorientated, feeling sick, urgency to go to the toilet, runny nose, crying, feeling faint, sweating, light-headedness, dizziness, tingling in hands and arms, breathing difficulties, a choking sensation like your throat is closing, a racing heart pounding in your chest and chest pain amongst other symptoms.


A silent panic attack involves internal symptoms without experiencing external symptoms. For example, a person experiencing a silent panic attack may feel their heart rate increase or become dizzy, but it may not seem like they are going through anything on the outside.


If you have panic attacks, carry a paper bag with you at all times.

When you feel the attack coming:

1SIT DOWN 2Take 6 to 12 easy, natural breaths, with a small paper bag held over your mouth and nose. 3Remove the bag from your nose and mouth and take easy, natural breaths.


This technique will help to reduce hyperventilation.

It works by putting some of the lost carbon dioxide back into your lungs and body.

This helps to balance oxygen flow in your body.


What are the Signs of Poverty Trauma?

There are many signs and symptoms of poverty trauma including:

• Fear

• Loneliness

• Anxiety - excessive fear and worry

• Anxiety attacks – this usually involves a fear of a specific situation or perceived threat with a clear trigger. Symptoms can be prolonged and include worry, restlessness, and physical symptoms, such as changes in heart rate.

• Headaches

• Fatigue

• Depression

• Apathy

• Numbness

• Confusion

• Helplessness

• Loss of appetite

• Problems sleeping

• Changes in behaviour or personality

• Irritability and angry outbursts

• Powerlessness

• Panic attacks – this usually involves a feeling of sudden, intense and unexpected panic that normally starts and finishes abruptly lasting between five and twenty minutes, some can last up to an hour.

• Suicidal thoughts and ideations


Self-help for Poverty Trauma Symptoms and Impacts

Here are some suggestions of ways of helping you to cope or coping better with poverty trauma.

Everyone is different so try more than one if you can and see what helps you.


Communicate – talking, signing or corresponding with others will help you relieve feelings of stress and anxiety You are not alone! – connect with others, confide in those who may share and understand your feelings so you can help each other and be there for each other during the painful moments Hug – yourself, others, cushions, blankets or teddies – feel the physical comfort of warmth or soft materials in your hands / arms Cry – let your emotions out when you need to and try not to bottle them up. Think of crying regularly as a tap dripping rather than a water tank of emotions at bursting point because the water can’t get out Take care of yourself as much as you can - get plenty of water, food (healthy food if you can), rest and exercise (stretching, walking, be creative and use everyday items to replace weights if resources are limited or do press ups, sit ups and squats if space is restricted) Avoid starting unhealthy coping methods such smoking or drinking excessive alcohol etc.If you are already using cigarettes, drinking alcohol, drugs or using other unhealthy coping strategies such as self-harm, get help if you can and look for other healthier coping methods and try and reduce the unhealthy ones over time and replace them with healthy ones Write – keep a diary, a thinker, journal, make notes, write your feelings down or create poems Draw and sketch - whichever method helps you to identify and translate your emotions onto paper, materials or digital devices Sew – creating a memorial blanket, quilt or other comforter is a powerful way to share and  memorialise your emotions and feelings creatively and constructively Music - humming, singing or drumming your favourite music on your own or together is a distraction and will lift your mood Form a routine or a new routine – this will help you to feel more in control, stable and safer  Get to know your triggers - you might find that certain situations, people, sight, smells, sounds, words, places or textures… seem to trigger flashbacks of traumatic events or other symptoms. The more you get to know your triggers the more you can predict, avoid or handle them Give yourself time and space – work out what helps you to find moments of peace  Ground yourself - look around and think about 5 things you can see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell and 1 thing you can taste Breathe – try deep and slow breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth. One of our psychotherapists, Felicity, calls it hot chocolate breathing with children in distress – she asks them to imagine holding a cup of hot chocolate in their hands and breathing in the lovely chocolatey smell through their nose and then blowing out through their mouths Self-soothing such as stroking or circling the top of your hands or the underneath of your hand with the opposite thumb Comfort yourself – curl up in blanket Safe item - keep a small object with you that you find comforting. It could be anything from a smooth or colourful stone to a sentimental personal item. See it or feel its texture for comfort when you start to feel stressed or upset as a reminder you are ok and will be ok Splash water on your face and hands (warm if possible) – use soap on your hands as it is a sensory aid so feeling the bubbles in your hands for a few minutes may help to ease your stress Repeat a positive statement in your head such as I am ok, I am safe or I will be ok Repeat a meditation statement /mantra in your heard such as I have control over how I feel or I choose to feel at peace or with every breath, I feel myself relaxing Safe place – imagine a safe place what it looks like, colours, furnishings, the feelings of being there safe and secure Enjoy - do something positive if you can. Spend some time on a hobby or activity you can lose yourself in if you can e.g. walking is proven to help physical and mental health or spending time with family or friends with a game or on a picnic or simply sharing a cup of tea and having a catch up Potter – pottering about with no specific task can have positive mental health benefits Ask for help - if you need it and you can, then reach out. The sooner you get help the more effective it will be in helping you, preventing further harm and a speedier recovery




There are distraction techniques that can take you away from immediate painful thoughts until you feel more relaxed and regulated emotionally. Try counting everyday items in sight around you, make lists, play mental or cognitive games such as counting the same or similar items around you, count forward from 1 or back from 100, find items you can see that all only start with the same letter of the alphabet and when you run out pick another letter and start again


Pressure Points

You can find some pressure points (red dots on pictures 1 and 2) in the webbing between your thumb and index finger (see picture 1) or another point is located on the outside of your forearm when you bend the arm 90 degrees. Measure 3 finger widths the elbow crease (see picture 2). Pressing or rubbing pressure points may reduce stress, headaches, and neck pain. Place your thumb or 1 or 2 fingers on the pressure point. Common fingers are the index and middle fingers. Apply firm pressure on the point and hold for 5 seconds. While applying pressure, take slow, deep breaths. Gently massage using a circular motion for 2 minutes. Repeat the pressure on your other hand

Picture 1Picture 2


Panic attack self-help

If you have panic attacks, carry a paper bag with you at all times. When you feel the attack coming on sit down. Take 6 to 12 easy, natural breaths, with a small paper bag held over your mouth and nose. Then remove the bag from your nose and mouth and take easy, natural breaths. This technique will help to reduce hyperventilation. It works by putting some of the lost carbon dioxide back into your lungs and body. This helps to balance oxygen flow in your body.


There are a number of UK charities offering free poverty related services. They have local centres across the UK and you can find one nearest to you on their websites:


For help with finance, debt, housing, legal, consumer and benefit entitlements:

Citizens Advice



For mental health help:




The Samaritans



For help with debt:

Step Change



Support for elderly people:




Support for children and young people:





You can find local foodbanks if you search on the Trussell Trust website, find a foodbank tab


There are also a number of independent foodbanks around the UK.


There are details about more UK organisations that can help on our

 Help Directory



Company No: 11080543.

Registered Charity No. 1189120.

Registered Address: 60 Sutton Street,

Flore, NN7 4LE.

T: 07495 539 611 E: jane@crysalys.org


Facebook link for The Crysalys Foundation