We’ve all heard the expression, “I didn’t ask to be born.” While that is true, that doesn’t prevent people from harming their children. It is unacceptable to inflict mental, physical, or sexual abuse on others. Yet instances like these happen every day in all parts of the country. 

Trauma can have lasting effects on people, leading to mental health disorders that can devastate their lives for years. 

Trauma disorders, also known as trauma-related disorders or stress-related disorders, are mental health conditions that result from experiencing or witnessing traumatic events. It is characterized by the development of various symptoms that have the potential to negatively affect an individual’s performance and well-being in the long run. 

Each individual’s experience and response to trauma can vary. A qualified mental health professional can assess and diagnose trauma-related disorders based on an individual’s specific symptoms and provide appropriate treatment and support.

Types of Trauma Disorders

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) occurs when one has been exposed to traumatic events, such as war, natural disasters, sexual and physical abuse, or accidents. Symptoms include recurring memories of the traumatic event or experience, mood changes, and constant anxiety. Approximately 13 million people in the U.S. suffer from PTSD.
  • Acute stress disorder is typically short-lived and lasts about a month. Individuals have an intense and dysfunctional response to a traumatic event. 5-20% of people who experience trauma have a bout of acute stress disorder.
  • Relational trauma occurs when a family member of someone close to an individual inflicts trauma. Relational trauma is common in children as well as adults in abusive relationships.
  • Adjustment disorders occur when an individual experiences a traumatic event, but the reaction is greater than the experience. Adjustment disorders can occur in individuals of any age, affecting 2-8% of the population. Individuals experience emotional distress, impaired social or occupational functioning, low self-esteem, hopelessness, and substantial changes in behavior.
  • Reactive attachment disorder (RAD) develops in neglected, abused children or whose caregiving has been disrupted. Children with RAD struggle to form stable social relationships, get emotionally attached to others, and control their emotions. In a study in the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health, 279 foster-care children were studied. 19.4% of them were diagnosed with RAD.   
  • Disinhibited social engagement disorder (DSED) is commonly observed in children who have experienced early trauma or disruptions in their caregiving. Indiscriminate social interactions, lack of normal wariness of strangers, and boundary violations distinguish it. Close to half of children living in high-risk environments experience DSED. Such environments can include foster care and institutional care.
  • Other specified trauma and stressor-related disorder (OS-TSRD) describes individuals who experience significant distress and impairment due to a traumatic event but do not meet the full criteria for any specific trauma-related disorder. 60% of children in the U.S. experience some type of trauma, with 22% experiencing 4 or more traumatic events. 
trauma disorders

Understanding the Facts about Trauma

According to the World Health Organization, adults who have been trauma victims are 3 times as likely to have significant depression, 4 times as likely to contemplate suicide, and 6 times more likely to suffer from post‐traumatic stress disorder. In addition, they are 13 times as likely to attempt suicide and 26 times more likely to develop a substance use disorder (SUD). 

Acute trauma occurs due to a single event or a series of events that lead to acute emotional distress. Serious accidents, natural disasters, or violent crimes cause acute trauma. Individuals with acute trauma have constant flashbacks, anxiety, and depression and experience difficulty sleeping.  

Chronic trauma is a mental health issue that results from repeated and prolonged exposure to adverse events such as physical or emotional abuse, neglect, or dysfunction within the home. Chronic trauma impacts an individual’s physical, emotional, and mental well-being.  

Complex trauma is long-term or repeated exposure to traumatic events. Individuals with complex trauma have a negative sense of self and safety and experience trouble holding lasting personal relationships. This type of drama is typically the result of physical or sexual abuse or neglect by caregivers. 

Trauma disorders affect millions of people worldwide. The prevalence of trauma disorders can vary depending on the type of trauma, lifestyle choices that impact mental health, and access to resources and support.

Trauma can interfere with the processes of the brain and nervous system. Psychological factors, such as perceptions of threat, cognitive abilities, and individual stability, play a role in developing trauma disorders.

Trauma disorders are treatable, and more so with early intervention. Evidence-based treatments for trauma disorders include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR).

Recognizing Signs and Dangers of Trauma Disorders

People with trauma disorders often have difficulty understanding the triggers and actions of people who have experienced such horrific trauma that it never leaves them. 

Diagnosing trauma symptoms helps doctors better understand and identify each individual’s needs. Not all people experience trauma the same way. 

People typically experience:

  • Flashbacks, bad dreams, or frightening thoughts
  • Avoidance of specific places or things that may trigger fear or panic
  • Being easily startled
  • Feeling tense or “on edge” constantly
  • Having difficulty sleeping
  • Having angry outbursts
  • Difficulty remembering critical points of the trauma-inducing event
  • Negative thoughts
  • Feelings of guilt or blame
  • Loss of interest in activities they once enjoyed
  • Intense panic attacks
  • Insomnia or depression
  • Chronic pain

Importance of Trauma Disorder Treatment

Treatment is the first step in controlling the symptoms if you or someone you know might be suffering from a trauma disorder. Individuals need medical support from professionals who understand their condition and pre-existing medical issues. 

For some, managing the symptoms alone isn’t possible. That’s why seeking support from a treatment team who can develop a course of action is vital. Working collaboratively with each individual, treatment facilities can create a personalized plan to assist in long-term recovery. 

Through proper medication, therapy, and support, individuals with a trauma disorder can manage their symptoms and learn coping skills to feel more grounded to complete daily functions.

Inpatient Mental Health Program

Inpatient or residential treatment is a level of care provided in a medically supervised facility for individuals with trauma disorders. Clients live at the facility 24/7 for the duration of their program. They receive intensive and structured comprehensive care. The underlying causes of the trauma disorder are addressed, and coping skills are taught. Clients also participate in support groups with others who have similar conditions. 

Intensive Outpatient Mental Health Program

Inpatient programs aren’t always required or serve the needs of every individual. For people with an involved support system at home, an intensive outpatient program better meets their needs. Trauma disorder treatment centers understand the importance of family in people’s lives. Because of that, many offer an intensive outpatient program (IOP). 

This program suits individuals who do not need around-the-clock care. This option is typically designed for individuals moving out of PHP. Most IOPs meet 3-4 days weekly for 3-5 hours, giving women time to return to their daily obligations. 

Partial Hospitalization Mental Health Program

A partial hospitalization program (PHP) can benefit patients needing more than outpatient care without 24/7 inpatient treatment. PHPs help individuals by providing a safe and structured environment with access to medical supervision, including psychotherapy, one-on-one and individual therapy, support groups, and medication management when needed. 

Individuals in this program can access care during the day and return home in the evenings to continue their routines. They can practice positive lifestyle changes and build social connections in a supportive community. 

Next Steps for Trauma Disorder Treatment

Even though living with a trauma disorder can be difficult, learning coping skills to manage the symptoms can improve health, daily functions, and social relationships. Take the first step by visiting Find Recovery Now. You will find treatment centers, support groups, and resources to help you begin the journey to recovery and an overall healthy lifestyle.