What is Trauma?
Trauma is a lasting emotional response to a terrible event like an accident, rape, or natural disaster. In this situation, experiencing a traumatic event can harm a person’s sense of safety, sense of self, and ability to regulate emotions. Immediately after the event, shock, together with denial are typical. Longer-term reactions include unpredictable emotions, flashbacks, and strained relationships. Apart from these, victims may also experience physical symptoms like headaches or nausea.
Trauma, including one-time, multiple, or long-lasting repetitive events, affects everyone differently. Also, the impact of trauma can be subtle, deceptive, or outright destructive. This is according to National Center for Biotechnology Information . In other words, not all people who experience a potentially traumatic event will actually become psychologically traumatized. However, some people will develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after being exposed to a major traumatic event. Trauma can manifest days, months, or even years after the actual event.
Traumatic events such as war, disasters, and accidents can leave people with devastating psychological effects that last long after the event itself. Trauma is a normal reaction to an abnormal situation and is experienced by anyone who has survived a frightening or distressing incident. Traumatic events are often sudden, unexpected incidents but they may not be completely unavoidable – e.g. you can avoid being in a place at certain times but it might be difficult to avoid a place where you grew up, your family home or your workplace. Traumatic events can also occur over a longer period than just one-off incidents – e.g. ongoing exposure to bullying, abuse, and neglect.
Prior to a traumatic event, most people have a sense of invulnerability. Traumatic events shatter that assumption and leave many people feeling frightened, helpless, and vulnerable. Traumatic experiences often strike suddenly and without warning.
An estimated 80 percent of adults in the United States have experienced at least one traumatic event in their lifetime (Kessler et al., 1995). People usually react to a traumatic experience with fear and disbelief: “This can’t be happening to me.” Traumatic events usually overwhelm people’s existing coping skills and defenses. Survivors often have a sense of being completely caught up in the event, unable to affect or control what is happening.
They feel helpless to manage their own destiny and unsure about how to exercise even minimal influence over their circumstances. Trauma victims may feel a sense of detachment from their physical selves; describing how it feels as if they are watching themselves from outside their bodies, observing the trauma as if it were occurring to someone else (Herman, 1992). The mind processes traumatic events quickly and automatically because conscious awareness during such experiences can be overwhelming (Everly & Lating, 2013).
Symptoms of Trauma
Emotional and psychological trauma when left untreated it can result in mental health disorders, such as major depressive disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, brief psychotic disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder. Moreover, the anguish and frustration from the traumatic event can even lead to suicide. Seeking help is key to living a successful and positive life. Trauma treatment is always available.
Emotional & psychological symptoms:
- Shock, denial, or disbelief
- Confusion, difficulty concentrating
- Anger, irritability, mood swings
- Anxiety and fear
- Guilt, shame, self-blame
- Withdrawing from others
- Feeling sad or hopeless
- Feeling disconnected or numb
- Insomnia or nightmares
- Being startled easily
- Difficulty concentrating
- Racing heartbeat
- Edginess and agitation
- Aches and pains
- Muscle tension
Acute Stress Disorder (ASD) VS Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Acute Stress Disorder (ASD)
Acute stress disorder (ASD) is an anxiety disorder that occurs in the days to months after a traumatic event. Traumatic events are those involving death or the threat of death, serious injury, or sexual violation. The prevalence of acute stress disorder has been estimated to be 5% among people who have experienced traumatic events across various studies conducted around the world, with higher rates among people exposed to interpersonal violence (eg, assault). People with PTSD experience some symptoms similar to those seen in ASD but also have additional symptoms.
Symptoms of ASD can occur suddenly after the traumatic event or gradually over several days. Acute stress disorder is diagnosed if symptoms last at least 3 days and up to 1 month, although on average symptoms persist for 4-6 weeks, trauma treatment is highly recommended to deal with ASD.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event—either experiencing it or witnessing it. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares, and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event.
Initial signs of PTSD usually start soon after the traumatic incident, but they can begin weeks, months, or even years later.
If you have PTSD, you may relive the experience through nightmares and disturbing recollections during the day. You may become defensive or irritable, avoid places that are associated with the trauma, and feel detached from other people. These symptoms may last for several months but can go on for years if they’re not treated with Trauma treatment.
Trauma Treatment options are available to help you identify and express your thoughts and feelings about the event, as well as regain a sense of control over your emotions.
ASD or PTSD
Some people with PTSD don’t show symptoms for months after the event itself. Moreover, some people deal with PTSD symptoms of a traumatic experience for the rest of their life. Symptoms of PTSD can lead to panic attacks, depression, suicidal thoughts and feelings, and drug abuse. The good news is that there are effective trauma treatments.
People with either ASD or PTSD may have similar symptoms but people with ASD are less likely to experience problems with thinking and memory, dissociation, numbing, chronic pain, sleep problems, irritability, unpredictable mood swings, and suicidal thoughts. They are more likely to show signs
Programs, services, and treatments vary. We Level Up rehab facilities do not provide EMDR therapy. Because patient stability should come prior to EMDR treatment. That’s why EMDR therapy to process trauma for patients actively drinking and abusing drugs should await their stability phase of treatment. EMDR phases 3 – 8 therapy is best enacted for patients that feel and experience a safer, trustful connection with their treatment team.
We Level Up rehab centers treat the entirety of behavioral health disorders including secondary corresponding illnesses to improve long-term recovery outcomes. Get a free substance abuse and or mental health assessment and find out what treatment options are most suitable for you. Call to learn more.
Trauma Treatment Modalities
Therapy is the first-line treatment for trauma. Whereas an individual will work with a trauma-informed or trauma-focused therapist.
Types of therapy a person with trauma could benefit from include:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) targets the negative thoughts associated with the traumatic experience. Also, it helps people to change their thought patterns. Learn more about CBT here.
- Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), individuals briefly relive specific traumatic experiences while the therapist directs their eye movements. It aims to help people process and integrate traumatic memories.
Medications. Not all trauma requires medication, but it can be a useful tool in treating the symptoms of trauma, such as anxiety and depression. To emphasize, it is best to work with a healthcare professional to determine whether medication is necessary.
Healing from trauma takes time. Be patient with the pace of recovery and remember that everyone’s response to trauma is different.
Trauma treatment generally requires longer ongoing therapy beyond shorter inpatient treatment modalities. Call us to learn more about trauma-informed treatment options.
Trauma Treatment and Co-Occurring Issues
Trauma and substance use disorders (SUDs) are prevalent and frequently co-occur. Individuals with co-occurring PTSD – ASD – Trauma/Substance Use Disorder (SUD) tend to have poorer treatment outcomes than those without such comorbidity.
When drugs or alcohol are used to self-medicate Trauma symptoms, the disorder only becomes more severe. As a central nervous system depressant, alcohol and opiates can worsen depression and anxiety and interfere with normal sleep patterns.
To learn more about your or a loved one’s Trauma treatment options please call our specialists 24/7. We Level Up FL Mental Health Center will be able to provide a free comprehensive Trauma Treatment assessment that can help inform you of suitable therapies for your specific trauma condition.
 National Center for Biotechnology Information – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK207191/
 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration – https://store.samhsa.gov/sites/default/files/d7/priv/sma14-4816_litreview.pdf