When someone experiences a traumatizing event, symptoms may develop immediately or remain latent and advance over time.
For survivors of natural disasters or abuse, PTSD could develop immediately after the event.
For servicemen and women, witnessing combat and war atrocities could cause severe PTSD symptoms over time.
It’s not easy to overcome trauma on your own. Fortunately, you’re not alone. MindDiagnostics can help you learn more about trauma with self-assessments. MindDiagnostics provides quizzes that can help you determine if your symptoms are a sign of mental illness. For more information on what events cause trauma and possible treatments, visit the link below:
https://www.mind-diagnostics.org/blog/ptsd. When talking about trauma, it’s helpful to know how it’s defined and what exactly happens in the brain.
What is Trauma?
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders defines trauma as “actual or threatened death, serious injury, or sexual violence.”
Examples of situations that cause trauma can be near-death experiences, sexual assault, near-fatal accidents, or violent encounters.
However, many situations may cause PTSD that doesn’t fall under the DSM-5’s strict definition.
Abusive relationships, surviving a natural disaster, losing a loved one, witnessing hate crimes, even living through a deadly illness can be considered traumatic events.
Symptoms of PTSD
Most symptoms fall under one of the following categories:
Reliving the Event
These symptoms range from flashbacks, nightmares, hallucinations, or intrusive memories. An example of this can be a hurricane survivor that relives the event during a thunderstorm.
Survivors who experience trauma may avoid anything associated with the traumatic event.
For example, survivors of sexual abuse may avoid crowded places or walking alone.
Physiological symptoms can range from chest tightness, excessive sweating, hyperventilation, headaches, irritability, or a lack of concentration.
These symptoms are difficult to diagnose unless patients are open, whether independently or with support from a licensed professional.
Feelings of guilt and shame or inability to enjoy pastimes can fall under this category. Suicidal thoughts or actions may also be symptoms of trauma.
Many people with PTSD choose to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol and are at risk of developing substance abuse disorder (SUD).
Trauma on the brain
Our brain has a survival mechanism called “fight or flight” that activates when faced with potentially dangerous events. Our adrenal glands release adrenaline to confront or flee from a threat, which gives us speed and power boost.
Once clear from danger, our brain releases the hormone cortisol to regulate our body’s functions and recover from the burst of adrenaline.
When a person experiences a traumatic event, their “fight or “flight” mechanism gets turned on and stays activated. The event doesn’t get resolved and continues to flood the body with adrenaline.
This adrenaline flooding can develop into anxiety and other stress-based disorders that can severely detriment the brain.
Who is most vulnerable to PTSD?
Anyone exposed to a severe event can be affected by PTSD, but some factors increase the likelihood of developing symptoms.
Studies show that individuals with a genetic predisposition to psychological disorders may develop PTSD or other mental illnesses. For example, a parent with schizophrenia has a 10% chance of passing it down to their children. If both parents have schizophrenia, that percentage increases to 40%.
Biological factors are also another factor to consider. Suppose a person is exposed to a severe risk of death daily. They may initially develop resilience to these symptoms but may be more prone to PTSD if confronted with any associated stimuli.
Trauma does not affect everyone the same, and symptoms may vary.
Therapies for Trauma
Fortunately, several types of therapy exist to treat symptoms of PTSD.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
CBT or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a form of therapy that focuses on a patient’s behavior and thought patterns to improve living standards.
CBT Therapy focuses on the present and how a patient perceives the world. Therapists examine behavior and thoughts to identify self-destructive patterns and thought processes.
CBT can benefit people with depression, anxiety, or other stress-related symptoms.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing
EMDR or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing is a form of therapy that dampens PTSD symptoms and helps patients confront their traumatic memories in a safe environment.
EMDR Therapy believes that trauma is the result of unprocessed memories. Through therapy, therapists guide patients to process these memories adequately.
Over time, patients will notice a change in their symptoms and change the script their mind wrote about their traumatic events, so the narrative does not repeat in future circumstances.
Psychodynamic psychology is a form of therapy that focuses on emotion, unlike CBT, which focuses on behavior and thoughts.
Psychodynamic therapy focuses on a patient’s emotional awareness. Therapists focus on guiding a patient to identify patterns and emotional blind spots, asking questions along the way to highlight recurring patterns or topics they may be avoiding.
This type of therapy is more collaborative and gives more control back to the patient.
Living with trauma can change how we see the world. If you’ve experienced symptoms of PTSD or other stress-related disorders, reach out to a licensed therapist today.