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Types of events that may induce prolonged trauma include:

  • Bullying /harassment
  • Physical, emotional, and sexual Abuse
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Life threatening illnesses
  • Childbirth
  • Sudden death of a loved one
  • War
  • Repeated critical incident events
  • Natural disasters
  • Childhood events

Traumatic events can be an isolated event or ongoing exposure to events. Trauma can also occur to someone who witnesses an event happening to someone else. The criteria for the diagnosis of traumatic disorders apply to children age six up.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

When an individual exhibits symptoms in response to a trauma, it is diagnosed as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

PTSD symptoms can include:

  • Nightmares
  • Intrusive thoughts
  • Dissociative reactions, like flashbacks or amnesia (forgetting aspects of the event)
  • Intense reactions to internal or external cues of the event
  • Hypervigilance
  • Avoidance
  • Altered mood
  • Reckless or destructive behaviors

Children are especially vulnerable to trauma and can have different reactions, as disturbed or repetitive play or nightmares without specific content.

Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Complex Post Traumatic Disorder (CPTSD) is trauma that happens within interpersonal relationships. Neglect, unpredictable, or absent parenting can create trauma responses.

PTSD and CPTSD share similar symptoms. CPTSD has additional symptoms including heightened or flattened emotional responses, disturbed relationships, sensitivity to criticism, social anxiety, and consistent negative self-concept.

Acute Stress Disorder

Considered an anxiety disorder, Acute Stress Disorder (ASD) causes psychological symptoms in reaction to trauma lasting from three days to a month. People with ASD exhibit symptoms similar to post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Therapies for trauma disorders

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), recommended interventions for PTSD include:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – This type of cognitive therapy focuses on the relationship with thoughts, feelings and behavior. It helps individuals change patterns of functioning.
  • Cognitive Therapy – Cognitive therapy challenges the pessimistic beliefs and memories following trauma. The goal is to interrupt the negative patterns that develop following trauma.
  • Prolonged Exposure Therapy – Prolonged exposure is a type of cognitive therapy that teaches people to gradually approach trauma-related memories. It helps people approach what they have avoided.

Conditionally recommended by the APA are:

  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR) – EMDR is a structured therapy that encourages a patient to briefly focus on the trauma while simultaneously experiencing bilateral stimulation. Dual attention helps people make different connections to the trauma.
  • Medications – Medications can help with reduction of nightmares and restless leg syndrome, which can accompany nightmares. Other medications conditionally recommended by the APA are sertraline, paroxetine, fluoxetine, and venlafaxine.

All therapies and medications should be administered and prescribed by those with specific clinical experience and training. Learn more about guidelines for PTSD.

Other therapies used for trauma are:

  • Brain Spotting – Brain spotting locates points in the clients’ visual field that help to access unprocessed trauma in the brain.
  • Somatic Experiencing (SE) – The goal of SE is to notice bodily sensations stemming from trauma or mental health issues and use the awareness to work through painful sensations.
  • Meditation
  • Hypnosis

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