By ABCS RCM
How people process and deal with trauma is important for their overall mental health. Trauma actually creates lingering effects and in fact, trauma and stress disorders are an essential part of the DSM-5. This is particularly evident in the categories for Anxiety Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders and Dissociative Disorders.
What is the definition of a traumatic event?
By many accounts, a traumatic event is an incident that creates physical, emotional, spiritual or psychological harm in a person. People who suffer from trauma often feel threatened and/or anxious because of the event that they experienced. Sometimes, they may not know how to properly respond to the event or may even deny that the traumatic event occurred. It often takes time and support for people to recover from these events and establish some level of emotional stability.
Trauma can manifest from a variety of ways, but it often occurs due to witnessing or experiencing a serious accident, terrorist act, natural disaster, combat, assault or other acts of violence. Intensely personal events such as experiencing a divorce, death of a loved one or parental abandonment can also generate a traumatic effect on the brain.
These events can have a negative impact on the brain an create conditions like PTSD or Post-traumatic stress disorder. This is a clinical, psychiatric condition that can develop in a person of any age after they have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event.
In the United States, roughly 60 percent of men and about 50 percent of women experience at least one traumatic event in their lives. Specifically, women are more likely to experience sexual assault and child sexual abuse. However, men are more likely to experience accidents, physical assault or combat. Out of these traumatic events, about 7 to 8 percent of individuals develop PTSD. But what are some of the identifiable symptoms of trauma-induced conditions like PTSD?
What are the main symptoms of PTSD?
According to information provided by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), there are three main symptoms that people display when struggling with conditions like PTSD.
 A Lack of Emotions: Individuals who have suffered trauma and developed PTSD may feel emotionally distant from everyday life activities. They may even avoid the people, places or activities associated with the traumatic experience.
 Re-living the traumatic event: When people go through an event that causes trauma, as time goes by they will often re-experience the traumatic event. Even though the event was in the past, they experience the event through vivid memories, nightmares and flashbacks.
 Aroused emotional state: This seems to conflict with the first main symptom (lack of emotions) but trauma-induced conditions like PTSD can leave people feeling on edge. Individuals may have a difficult time trying to focus or sleep. In fact, they may appear “jumpy” or display signs of agitation.
Responding to Traumatic Events:
Trauma by its very nature, effects everyone a little differently. Some people develop symptoms that resemble PTSD, but other individuals will display responses that fall outside of diagnostic criteria. In fact, people’s immediate reactions in the aftermath of trauma are complicated and are greatly influenced by their own life experiences.
This is likely why a variety of reactions are often reported and observed after a traumatic event. Most survivors exhibit immediate reactions, yet their conditions often disappear without any severe long-term mental health consequences. Most trauma survivors are resilient and possess coping strategies and social supports that help them to deal with the aftermath and effects of trauma. However, individuals who display few symptoms may still have subclinical symptoms that do not fit diagnostic criteria for acute stress disorder (ASD) or PTSD. Only a small percentage of people with a history of trauma show impairment and symptoms that meet criteria for trauma-related stress disorders, including mood and anxiety disorders.
Once people have moved past the initial shock of the event, individual responses may vary, but common general responses include:
* Irritability and anger.
* Sudden mood changes.
* Anxiety, nervousness, depression and denial.
* Flashbacks or repeated memories of the event.
* Difficulty concentrating.
* Altered sleeping or insomnia.
* Changes in appetite.
* Withdrawal and isolation from day-to-day activities.
* Physical symptoms of stress (headaches, nausea, etc.).
* Worsening of an existing medical condition.
Sociologist Brene Brown sums up the impact of trauma in her writings. “Of all the things trauma takes away from us, the worst is our willingness, or even our ability, to be vulnerable. There’s a reclaiming that has to happen.” Dr Brown states that vulnerability is “about having the courage to show up and be seen.”
For people who are concerned about the impact of trauma on themselves or loved ones, they should seek professional care. A skilled and experienced mental health professional will be able to properly diagnose and conditions and provide appropriate treatments.
For questions about the impact of traumatic events and PTSD, contact a staff member at Providers For Healthy Living. As a behavioral & mental health practice, one of their medical specialties is diagnosing and treating PTSD, stress and anxiety disorders. They have been providing experienced behavioral health services since 2011, with their practice established on the values of quality, hope and personal responsibility.
Reach out to them at 614-664-3595 or 419-605-9817.
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