About Trauma & Treatment

Defining Trauma

Some experiences in life are bad, but what takes someone from simply having a bad experience to developing PTSD? Why does it seem that some people can walk away from a traumatic event, such as a car crash or assault seemingly unbothered, while others need to retreat to places of comfort and security? Some of us will feel "fine" for a while, only to find ourselves suffering months or years (even decades) later.

Popular dictionaries have slight variations in the way they define trauma, however, they all describe a distressing shock that may cause emotional and/or physical injury.

 

We're All Different

In real life, each of us experiences and process traumatic events differently. For some, there is a short period of adjustment – a time to evaluate and heal. Others take longer – sometimes weeks, months, years, even decades – becoming stuck in the process of healing.

For these people, life often becomes an unpredictable, fear-filled place where there is little relief for the emotional and physical pains brought on by post-trauma stress reactions.

 

trauma first responders boy sitting by the roadside upset

Trauma Can Be Caused by Many Things

There are many myths associated with PTSD and other trauma-related stress reactions. One of them is the idea that the only people who can develop a strong post-trauma reaction are people who had something “really bad” happened directly to them –  the combat soldier engaged in a firefight or the assault victim who had a knife held to their throat. 

Originating events can take many forms, including witnessing or indirectly experiencing a traumatic event.  The DSM-V has expanded its definition and has broadened the criteria for diagnosing and treating those affected by traumatic experiences.

 

Reclaim Your Life from Post-Trauma Stress

 

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is not the only post-trauma stress reaction. Typically when thinking of PTSD we imagine a combat veteran haunted by the realities of war or a car crash victim afraid to return to the car. While these people do sometimes develop PTSD, the truth is that PTSD is not limited to specific events.

Post-trauma stress reactions are most likely to occur when something upsetting happens that tears down the person's beliefs about themselves and the world around them.  These include:

Victims of interpersonal violence (rape, attempted murder, robbery)

  • Disaster survivors
  • First responders (Fire, Police, Dispatchers)
  • Medical workers
  • Aid providers
  • Medical survivors
  • Mothers who experience late term miscarriages and stillbirths

Originating events can take many forms, including witnessing or indirectly experiencing a traumatic event.

People who are experiencing symptoms of PTS(D) often find themselves:

  • re-experiencing the event in the form of nightmares, flashbacks and distressing thoughts that appear at times when they are not welcome.
  • avoiding people, places, and objects (to include smells, tastes, textures) that remind them of the event.
  • overly alert to everything going on around them, making it difficult to concentrate on routine thoughts and tasks.
  • difficulty with sleeping.
  • easily irritated, angry and impulsive.
  • distant, disconnected or emotionally cut off from important people in their lives.
  • startling easily.
  • sometimes become deeply involved in work or a hobby.

 

Moving toward Healing

The common thought is that there is little available to treat PTSD and other trauma-related symptoms.  Medications are often tried and do help with symptom management, but medications alone frequently only offer  temporary relief.

“Talk therapy,” while effective, can take years to yield positive results. This can discourage many PTSD sufferers from even giving it a try.

First responders paramedic rushing to an emergency incident that may cause the onset of trauma

However, there is research that supports early intervention can markedly reduce the development of PTSD.  When someone exhibits symptoms and begins treatment during the first three months following the traumatic experience (referred to as Acute Stress Disorder), exposure therapies such as Prolonged Exposure Therapy (PE) can markedly reduce the development of PTSD (reference needed).

For many PTSD sufferers, evidence-based practices, such as Prolonged Exposure (PE) Therapy and Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) can yield surprising results in as few as 12 sessions.

 

Effective Treatments for Trauma Stress

Trauma doesn't just affect the victim, spouses, children, parents, and friends often suffer alongside the victim. Support and education are vital for these important people, as well.

Please contact my office for an updated list of groups, educational workshops, and other resources for family members. I am happy to discuss resources that will meet your needs.

About Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT)
About Prolonged Exposure Therapy (PE)