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Trauma-Related Disorders

Trauma has both a medical and a psychiatric definition. Medically, trauma refers to a serious or critical bodily injury, wound, or shock. In psychology, trauma refers to exposure to actual or threatened death, serious injury, or sexual violence resulting in lasting mental and physical effects. Memories and symptoms associated with previous trauma; particularly sexual trauma, may present during the perinatal period, as this is a time of invasive medical procedures, hormonal changes, and major life changes as a result of an adjustment to motherhood. Birth trauma, or a particularly grueling or life-threatening labor & delivery experience can lead to a myriad of intense emotion, distressing memories, hypervigilance, and changes in one’s view of themselves. Therapeutic approaches such as Cognitive Processing Therapy, Prolonged Exposure Therapy, and Acceptance & Commitment Therapy, all of which are offered at the Center for Maternal Mental Health, have been proven to help women to cope with trauma and move toward recovery.

What is Acute & Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Acute Stress Disorder (ASD) is a mental health condition that can occur immediately after one or more traumatic events. It can cause a range of psychological symptoms and without recognition or treatment, it can lead to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Symptoms may develop after first-hand experience or witnessing of a disturbing event involving serious injury, physical or sexual violation, death, or the threat thereof. Symptoms begin or worsen after the trauma occurs and can last from three days to one month. This time period is known as the acute phase. If the traumatic symptoms persist beyond the acute phase, a mental health clinician can assess for the presence of PTSD.

What are Symptoms of Traumatic Stress Disorders?

Symptoms from traumatic stress disorders fall with in five different categories:

  • Intrusion Symptoms - Recurring feelings, intrusive distressing memories, and ruminating about past trauma

  • Negative Mood Symptoms - An inability to experience positive emotions

  • Dissociative Symptoms 

    • An altered state of reality​

    • Being in a daze

    • Feeling as though time is distorted

    • Inability to remember traumatic facts

  • Avoidance Symptoms 

    • Avoiding contacts with medical providers or facilities

    • Avoiding memories, thoughts, feelings, people, or places associated with the Trauma

    • Distancing from loved ones

  • Arousal Symptoms

    • Insomnia and Nightmares

    • Irritability or aggression

    • Lack of concentration

    • Being easy to startle

    • Emotional flooding

What Causes Traumatic Stress Disorders?​

A person exposed to a traumatic event is at risk for a traumatic stress disorder. Traditionally, the closer a person is to the source of trauma, the more severe the stress disorder. However, the risk to stress disorders is not determined by how severe or proximate a person was to the traumatic event. Different events can affect people in different ways and varying degrees. Not everyone exposed to a trauma will develop a stress disorder. Individuals may be at greater risk for developing stress disorder if they have previously been diagnosed with a mental disorder, perceive the traumatic event to be very severe, have an avoidant coping style when experiencing distress, or have a history of previous trauma. Women are more likely to develop acute stress disorder than men.​

How to Treat Traumatic Stress Disorders?

There are several effective techniques including Cognitive Processing Therapy, Prolonged Exposure Therapy, and Narrative Therapy that have been proven to help people cope with trauma, If you or a loved one is suffering from traumatic stress disorders or any of the symptoms listed above, you can work with a mental health professional who can create an individual treatment plan to help you reduce your symptoms, implement coping mechanisms, and manage trauma-related disorders. Please contact CFMMH for a free phone consultation or to schedule an appointment to be seen.

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