How Does Trauma Occur?
Trauma is the result of a physically or emotionally harmful experience that poses lasting negative effects on an individual’s mental, emotional, and physical well-being. People who suffer from trauma may have a difficult time coping in day-to-day life. In the United States, it is estimated that 61% of men and 51% of women experience at least one traumatic event in their lifetime. There are many different types of trauma and many ways to experience it, but it can be overcome with the right treatment and support.
Common types of trauma:
Acute trauma occurs from one traumatic event.
Complex trauma is the result of repeated and/or varying traumatic events such as childhood abuse, domestic violence, or multiple military deployments.
Developmental trauma – This term is used to describe trauma that takes place during childhood and can stem from sexual abuse, physical abuse, domestic violence and neglect or deprivation.
Political terror and war – Individuals who serve in the military may be exposed to a multitude of traumatic events. Similarly, non-military individuals who have been affected by war, or mass violence may also suffer from trauma.
Individual trauma – A traumatic event that an individual experiences such as a car accident, sudden loss of a loved one, physical or sexual abuse, and natural disasters.
Signs and Symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
There are a variety of physical and emotional symptoms that follow a traumatic event. Early emotional signs of trauma include confusion, depression, anxiety, agitation and dissociation. Physically, individuals may experience nausea, dizziness, heart palpitations, panic attacks, and changes in appetite and sleeping habits. More severe responses to trauma include repeated intense and disruptive flashbacks and continuous emotional distress without pause. Delayed responses to trauma include nightmares, consistent fatigue, and avoidance of emotions and activities associated with the trauma.
What is PTSD?
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is an intense physical and emotional response to a traumatic event. Most people will experience symptoms within three months of a traumatic event, but symptoms can also appear years afterward. If symptoms persist longer than a month, it may be Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Severe trauma can happen in any manner of ways. Witnessing death and destruction on the combat field, the sudden death of a loved one, sexual assault, witnessing a serious car accident, or living through a natural disaster can all potentially result in extreme anxiety for the victim. While many people can cycle through the pain and loss of these types of events, others may have certain predispositions that make them vulnerable for PTSD. Panic attacks, drug abuse, suicidal thoughts, and depression are also commonly linked with PTSD.
The symptoms of PTSD fall into four general categories, although each individual’s symptoms may have slight variations. They include:
- Re-experiencing – Flashbacks, nightmares, frightening thoughts, emotional triggers, physical reactions including heart palpitations, chills, and tension headaches
- Avoidance – Avoiding thoughts or places that remind the individual of the traumatic event, feeling estranged from others
- Arousal and reactivity – Being easily startled, angry outbursts, difficulty sleeping and concentrating
- Cognition and mood – Difficulty remembering aspects of the traumatic event, skewed feelings of guilt or blame, negative thoughts about oneself or the world around them, loss of interest in pleasurable activities
Understanding Complex PTSD
While many instances of trauma are limited to a single event such as a car accident or natural disaster, Complex PTSD, or C-PTSD, occurs when trauma is repeated over an extended duration of time. Since this form of trauma can take place over months or even years, it may require a different and more extensive treatment plan. Trauma associated with C-PTSD is often caused by interpersonal relationships, such as regular sexual or physical violence inflicted by a family member or loved one. Victims of this type of trauma may experience changes in self-perception, loss or reliving of traumatic memories, distorted perceptions of an abuser, and difficulty trusting others and maintaining relationships. With the right therapy and treatment, people who suffer from C-PTSD can regain control of their lives and take positive strides toward restoring a positive image of oneself and preserving trust in meaningful relationships.
Acute Stress Disorder
ASD typically develops within four weeks of a traumatic event and is characterized by significant levels of distress. While there are shared symptoms between PTSD and ASD, ASD is less severe and occurs during a shorter time period comparatively. Seeking treatment for ASD can significantly reduce the possibility of subsequently developing PTSD and other mood disorders such as depression and anxiety.
Some factors that can increase the risk of PTSD include:
- Exposure to other dangerous or stressful events
- Bodily injury
- Childhood trauma
- Feelings of fear and helplessness
- Having little or no emotional support after the event
- Dealing with additional stress after the event, such as loss of a loved one, pain and injury, or loss of a job or home
- Having a history of mental illness or substance abuse
Best Treatment Options for PTSD
Treating severe PTSD requires a comprehensive approach. Because no two people process traumatic events the same, some experimentation with treatments and medications may be necessary until the best approach is identified. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) are the drugs recommended for treatment of PTSD.
A trauma-focused psychotherapy used for treating PTSD is cognitive processing therapy (CPT). CPT is similar to cognitive behavioral therapy and helps the individual to identify how the trauma has led to disordered thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, and to replace those with a new perspective about the trauma, and new ways of thinking about it.
There are several experiential treatments that have specifically helped patients with PTSD. They include:
- Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is an information processing technique that involves dual processing—engaging both sides of the brain—involving the eye tracking the practitioner’s finger back and forth, or by use of an auditory tone.
- Prolonged exposure (PE) involves repeating the details of the trauma over and over, or visiting the scene of the incident repeatedly, until the memories cease to be disturbing.
- Brainspotting is a slower form of EMDR that allow for identifying specific fixed eye positions that are related to certain traumatic memories, called “brainspots.”
- Hypnotherapy guides the individual into a deeper level of consciousness where they are trained to confront and release the traumatic memories.
- Equine therapy involves caring for the needs of a horse, including grooming, feeding, and exercising the horse, which can the individual process their emotions and examine their behaviors related to the trauma while bonding with the animal.
- Psychodrama is an experiential psychotherapy that helps those with PTSD work through the traumatic memories within a safe environment, providing a powerful tool for expression and catharsis of related emotions.
Why Consider PTSD Inpatient Treatment?
When the effects of PTSD leave an individual virtually incapacitated and unable to function, an inpatient program may be the best option. Inpatient programs offer the best chance to stabilize someone in an acute psychiatric state, providing a safe, serene environment that is free of stressors.
An inpatient setting will ensure the highest level of care for the individual suffering from PTSD. Round the clock monitoring by treatment professionals allow the person to process many of the symptoms of the trauma in a safe place where new coping techniques can be learned. Co-occurring disorders, such as substance abuse or depression, can also be managed and treated during inpatient stay.
Recovering in a PTSD Inpatient Treatment Program
Someone who has experienced or witnessed a traumatic event may wind up with the painful memories associated with it imprinted on their psyche. Unlike the usual after-effects one might experience after living through a shocking or tragic event, which gradually dissipate and recede, these trauma victims are deeply scarred emotionally. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has developed when the victim’s residual emotions related to the event not only do not diminish, but instead intensify.
Living with PTSD entirely changes your perspective, causing serious disruptions in daily functioning. If not treated the detrimental effects of PTSD can have a negative impact on job performance, academic performance, and significant relationships. When the disorder has worsened to this point, seeking PTSD inpatient treatment is a viable option.
Seeking Help at PTSD Inpatient Treatment Centers
The Treatment Specialist offers information and treatment resources for post traumatic stress disorder also known as PTSD. Call to connect with a treatment center for a free assessment today at (866) 644-7911. California offers leading treatment programs for trauma and PTSD at a private facility offering the best clinicians and doctors. Treatment options available for adults and teens who have suffered from trauma conditions.