Trauma Disorders Treatment
What is Trauma?
Trauma is defined as the emotional and psychological burden caused by a traumatic event. Traumatic events can be characterized objectively, but whether an event causes trauma in a person is subjective. This means a car crash, or a shooting is always traumatic, but it may not cause everyone involved to experience trauma as a result.
In addition to existing subjectively, trauma is also experienced subjectively. Like pain, some people experience it more intensely than others, and symptoms differ. In some cases, trauma can be short-lived. In others – in most cases, even –psychological trauma can become a long-term mental health issue. Especially if left unaddressed.
Most traumatic events are not bombastic, nor do they make it into the news. Most trauma cases are not caused by war or combat. The majority of trauma is personal – surviving sexual assault, witnessing the death of a loved one, or being robbed. For many people, trauma carries with it shame, regret, and grief. These emotions can fuel trauma disorders and make it harder for people to seek the help they need. Sometimes, they don’t want to carry a label. Or sometimes, they might feel like the event that caused them trauma might not be significant enough to warrant treatment.
But trauma is trauma, and all forms of trauma require treatment.
Identifying Trauma Disorders
Trauma disorders include conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder, but they are not limited to PTSD. There are a number of different conditions that can be characterized as a trauma disorder. Some of them carry other labels as well, such as anxiety disorder. In general, most (but not all) trauma disorders are also anxiety disorders.
Some conditions co-occur with trauma disorder or may occur as a result of a trauma disorder but are not exclusively referred to as a trauma disorder. Major depressive disorder, for example, is common in people who experienced a traumatic event, even if depression is not always associated with traumatic events. Some of the more common trauma disorders include:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder–post-traumatic stress disorder is the most commonly known trauma disorder. As the name implies, it is characterized by long-term symptoms of post-traumatic anxiety and stress, including dissociation, avoidance symptoms, flashbacks or memories, intrusive thoughts, and physical symptoms (such as panic attacks).
PTSD can come and go, but onset is usually weeks or months after a traumatic event has already passed. While PTSD symptoms can come out of nowhere, they are often triggered by a so-called “fear trigger”. Research shows that individuals with PTSD – from children to adults – have an altered adrenal response, and are far more likely to startle. Their bodies are effectively in constant “fight or flight”.
- Acute stress disorder–while PTSD is characterized by long-term symptoms of trauma after a traumatic event occurs, acute stress disorder is characterized by intense short-term symptoms of trauma immediately after a traumatic event. Acute stress disorder is diagnosed in individuals who experience frequent nightmares and other adverse symptoms after something horrible happened. However, unlike PTSD, most cases of acute stress disorder pass after some time. Treatment and counseling is still advised to help teens work through their trauma, rather than letting it develop into other conditions.
- Secondhand trauma–secondhand trauma, also known as secondary traumatic stress, is a mental disorder characterized by symptoms of trauma and anxiety as a result of repeated exposure to the effects of trauma in others.
For example, witnessing people mourn their loved ones, repeatedly lose their pets, or watch their family member die as a doctor, counselor, or emergency personnel can have a serious long-term impact on your psyche and mental wellbeing. People who experience secondhand trauma due to their proximity to someone who has met with an unbelievable tragedy will often be reluctant to seek help, because they did not experience the trauma directly. However, indirect trauma is still trauma.
- Reactive attachment disorder–reactive attachment disorder is a rare trauma and stress disorder that only develops in the earliest years of childhood, but can go unnoticed or undiagnosed even into adulthood. It is a form of trauma or attachment disorder caused by emotional neglect or lack of healthy attachments between a parent and a child. Sometimes, reactive attachment disorder is caused by the trauma of child abuse.
Teens who grow in foster care, who lost their parents at an early age, or were adopted from an abusive household may have developed reactive attachment disorder due to early childhood experiences. This can affect a child cognitively and behaviorally, causing strange or developmentally inappropriate behavior, detached personalities, and difficulties with relationships.
- Adjustment disorder–an adjustment disorder is defined as a set of negative mental health symptoms caused by a life stressor or traumatic event, usually in the sense that it changes a teen’s outlook on life or themselves in a negative way. In other words, an adjustment disorder is defined by maladjustment, or a poor reaction to a negative event.
Adjustment disorder usually occurs within the first three months after a negative or traumatic event and is often short-term. However, it can last longer than normal if not addressed properly, for example through professional counseling or therapy.
- Disinhibited social engagement disorder–disinhibited social engagement disorder is another trauma-related attachment disorder, one characterized by difficulty creating social bonds with others, coupled with a lack of inhibition towards strangers.
The main difference between disinhibited social engagement disorder and other attachment disorders is that children and teens with DSED might react overly friendly to strangers, and generally have no fear of them. This condition is usually also caused by neglect- or abuse-related trauma.
- Other and unspecified trauma disorders–symptoms of anxiety and other trauma-related mental health issues without a clear-cut diagnosis are often referred to as an unspecified trauma disorder.
Trauma Treatments at the Arrow House
Overcoming trauma takes time, patience, and support. At the Arrow House, we focus on creating holistic treatment plans that incorporate a teen’s family and most trusted loved ones, so they can continue to focus on recovery after the initial treatment period. Find out more about our treatment methods and modalities at the Arrow House.