Although it may seem as though trauma only affects certain groups of people, the statistics on emotional trauma reveal something entirely different.
Studies show that over seventy percent of Americans have experienced at least one traumatic event in their lifetime.
The National Centre for PTSD reported that over eight million US citizens experience a traumatic event each year.
The above figures show the devastating impact of psychological trauma and how high the prevalence rates are for those exposed to traumatic events.
What gets classified as a traumatic event?
Examples of psychological trauma can vary.
However, perhaps one of the most helpful ways to describe emotional trauma is that it results from extraordinarily stressful events that shatter one’s sense of security, making the person feel helpless within themselves and the world around them.
Haunted by symptoms
Trauma causes severe anxiety and often leaves people struggling with upsetting feelings, memories and thoughts that won’t go away.
Examples of trauma
Examples of trauma vary from single event trauma to prolonged trauma and include:
- Being the victim of a natural disaster
- Exposure to domestic violence
- Childhood trauma
- Being exposed to repeated trauma, such as a war veteran
- Being the victim of a physical assault (or other assault such as a verbal or sexual attack)
- The sudden or unexpected loss of a loved one
- Exposure to long-term traumatic events such as physical violence, witnessing a loved ones’ illness or being the victim of a kidnapping
- Child exploitation rings
Research shows that psychological trauma can lead to specific mental health disorders.
The literature reported that several mental health conditions get triggered by trauma. They include:
- Acute stress disorder
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Second Hand trauma
- Reactive attachment disorder
- Adjustment disorder
- Disinhibited social engagement disorder
Acute stress disorder
Sometimes referred to as ASD, acute stress disorder affects between six – thirty-three percent of trauma victims.
The symptoms of acute stress disorder usually occur around one month after a traumatic event and may be similar to those experienced in PTSD.
Out of body experience
One of the leading indicators of acute stress disorder is that trauma victims may report having regular out -of-body-experiences and may become disoriented or confused about what is happening and where they are.
Post-traumatic stress disorder PTSD
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is one of the most common mental disorders people experience after trauma.
Additionally, around one in eleven US citizens are diagnosed with PTSD every year, with many experiencing troubling symptoms such as:
- Intrusive thoughts or memories related to a traumatic event
- Sleep disturbance
Mental health advancements
PTSD is a type of mental illness that used to be associated with war veterans.
However, in recent decades, the condition has been recognised as a much more prevalent mental disorder that affects many trauma victims from all walks of life and experiences.
Second Hand trauma
Sometimes referred to as vicarious trauma, secondary trauma results from witnessing another person’s trauma or being exposed to secondary trauma.
For example, you might be the spectator of a violent attack on the street or even as a child in your family home (i.e. domestic violence).
In this instance, you may not be the direct recipient of violence or abuse; however, the traumatic event still has a profound impact on your physical and emotional well-being.
Seeing someone we care about getting hurt in any way is inordinately upsetting.
The above can cause a range of upsetting thoughts, feelings, and emotions such as anger, fear, guilt, negativity, and feeling that your attempts to resolve conflict are never good enough.
Reactive attachment disorder
Reactive attachment disorder usually occurs due to early childhood trauma and is often the result of a break in the bond between parent and child.
The above can happen when parents are incarcerated or die unexpectedly; it can also occur when children are separated from their parents for another reason and get placed into care.
In the above scenarios, the emotional connection is not made between child and parent or gets severed at an early age (usually before the age of five).
A child with reactive attachment disorder is usually withdrawn and often experiences severe depressive symptoms.
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Disinhibited social engagement disorder
Disinhibited social engagement disorder (DSED) is another type of childhood trauma.
DSED is a trauma disorder of infancy and early childhood and results from severe neglect due to unmet physical or psychological needs.
An infant with the above trauma does not form an emotional bond with their caregiver, making it difficult for them to create deep, meaningful connections to others.
Unlike reactive attachment disorder, a child with DSED is usually outgoing and friendly.
However, one of the complications of DSED is that children have difficulty sensing danger in others and tend to have blind trust towards other people, even those they do not know.
Adjustment disorder is when a person’s reaction to trauma or a traumatic event is so severe that the symptoms they experience are debilitating and cause disruption to their day-to-day living.
AD or adjustment disorder describes a person’s inability to cope with trauma symptoms.
Sometimes a person’s response to trauma is more extreme than it should be, causing profound symptoms such as social isolation, anxiety, nervousness, lack of appetite, sleep disturbances and feelings of hopelessness.
While there is no known reason why some people experience trauma while others don’t, some experts believe that certain factors may play a role in the development of trauma, such as a person’s genetic predisposition and environmental factors.
Symptoms of trauma
There are several symptoms that someone with trauma might experience, such as:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Substance abuse (such as drugs or alcohol) to numb the pain of trauma
Whether a person has symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder or any other trauma disorders, there are many treatment options for those living with trauma.
Therapy is usually the first-line treatment option for trauma.
Such therapies include:
- EMDR – eye movement desensitization reprocessing involves bilateral (side to side) eye movements guided by a therapist, which target unwanted thoughts, memories and beliefs related to a traumatic event
- Somatic therapies – such therapies include a range of somatic experiencing, psychotherapy, acupoint stimulation, and touch therapy to address trauma symptoms
- Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) – some evidence shows that CBT is the most effective therapy for PTSD as it helps people to manage (and modify) negative thought patterns which influence emotions and behaviours
Research shows that therapeutic techniques such as mindfulness, having a balanced lifestyle and engaging in self-care measures such as exercise and maintaining a connection to others are beneficial when recovering from trauma.
It might be helpful for people with a history of trauma to know that whatever they are experiencing or feeling is wholly expected given what they have endured.
However, with appropriate support and treatment, it is possible for trauma survivors to not only ‘survive’ but ‘thrive’ and this, among many other things, is the ultimate goal of recovery.
If you want to know more about the symptoms of trauma or think that you may benefit from any of the therapies mentioned in this article, please get in touch with a specialist at White River Manor who can help.