Did you experience a traumatic event and are struggling to get past bad memories of the event?
Are you having nightmares or night terrors?
Are you having a tough time experiencing positive emotions or are you feeling more irritable than you were before the traumatic event?
Are you easily startled?
Do you avoid being in social situations or being around too many people?
Are you having difficulty remembering parts of the traumatic event or do you feel like you keep reliving it?
Do you find that you avoid people, places or things that may remind you of the traumatic event?
If something dangerous or life threatening, terrifying or shocking happened to you or you witnessed such events happen to someone else and are experiencing negative reactions that get in the way of you living your life, you may be struggling with a trauma related disorder.
What are trauma and stress related disorders?
Not all people that experience stressful or traumatic events will struggle with a mental health disorder, but those that do tend to experience uncomfortable symptoms that interfere with their ability to live a fulfilling life. There are a few disorders that can result following a stressful or traumatic event that faces children and adults. Adjustment disorder, acute stress disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. Additionally, children can also experience disinhibited social engagement disorder and reactive attachment disorder.
Initially, when you experience a traumatic and stressful event, it is expected that you have some reaction to this experience. You can initially start to feel anxiety, sadness, confusion, tiredness, feeling out of place, feeling numb or emotionless and feeling physically keyed up. These symptoms usually subside with time away from the traumatic or stressful event. What becomes a problem is if you continue to have significant problems that get in the way of your daily life even after time has passed.
In the first three months following the traumatic or stressful events, if your symptoms are significant to interfere with your daily life, you may be struggling with an acute stress disorder. After three months with continued symptoms, you could be struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). After a traumatic event you could be struggling with problems with your thoughts, emotions, physical arousal, physical symptoms and interpersonal relationships.
Since not everyone develops a disorder, there are some factors that can make you more likely to have mental health concerns following a traumatic event. If you have prior traumatic experiences, especially in childhood, if you do not have a social support system, if there is a family history of mental illness or substance use issues, or if you are struggling with other stressful life events. Conversely, protective factors against developing a trauma and stress related disorder include relying on your social supports, having healthy coping skills and being able to face difficult events as they happen despite a negative emotional reaction.
Those who experience a traumatic or stressful event may not necessarily struggle from a trauma related disorder and may struggle with other mental health conditions. It is important, if you feel that your symptoms are getting in the way of your daily activities, to see a professional who can help you understand the extent of your difficulties and formulate a plan for relief as there are many successful treatments for trauma and stress related disorders.
There is help!
As with many other mental health concerns, trauma related disorders can be treated with both therapy and medication management. It is important that you work with a provider who has specialized training in treating trauma related disorders. One effective psychotherapy approach to treating trauma related disorders includes cognitive behavioral therapy which is an evidence-based approach.
Cognitive behavioral therapy
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is an evidence-based treatment that is effective in treating stress and trauma related disorders including post-traumatic stress disorder. Two types of CBT for PTSD include cognitive restructuring therapy or exposure therapy. In cognitive restructuring treatment, you and your provider make sense of the events you went though and process your thoughts and feelings in a more fact based manner.
There are many types of PTSD treatments that have exposure therapy as the main ingredient. What this means is that you are helped to learn how to manage your negative symptoms while you are slowly exposed to thoughts, memories and emotions in a safe place while not being exposed to any additional threats. This can happen by you telling your story, writing about or visiting places where events may have occurred. Some trauma related treatments include trauma focused CBT, prolonged exposure therapy and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR).
Treating your trauma related disorder with an Evermore Wellness provider
It is important to understand that with treating any mental health condition, the first step is identifying and setting the plan or goal for treatment. It is important to know what you want to get out of treatment and what changes you are expecting to result from your investment in psychotherapy. Treatment can include educating you on what is expected with certain stress and trauma related disorders, how a diagnosis is made and how a traumatic events effected you personally. Therapy will offer you a safe space to discuss your concerns without feeling shame or guilt. It will also provide you with a plan for treatment that fits your specific needs and this includes techniques to reduce your level of discomfort and a plan to help you to return to what you feel is normal daily living.
Does this mean you should expect that you will feel better as soon as treatment starts? The quick answer is no. At times, with treatment that deals with trauma survivors, symptoms can get worse before they get better. A hallmark symptom in trauma related disorders includes avoidance and a sense you will be asked to face this avoidance; your symptoms can increase at the onset of treatment. There is also a risk that a particular trauma treatment may not be the right treatment for you which is why ongoing communication with your provider regarding your experience is key. Our goal in helping you manage your distress is that you leave therapy feeling like you have processed any non-realistic thoughts about the traumatic event and have resolved, some or most of your negative symptoms related to the traumatic event. In addition, it is our hope that you would have also gained skills to build protective factors to avoid future traumatization.
Our providers are usually trained in several modalities to treat mental health conditions and we are always pursuing continuing education to assure we stay current with our knowledge of our profession. We use our experience to assure treatment is working for you and make changes as necessary during your treatment journey. If you ever feel that therapy is not working or if a technique does not fit your needs, you provider will work with you to make sure you are getting the most out of your care with us. Moreover, if needed, your provider can also assist you in finding a different provider that would better fit your treatment needs.
Will I need medication?
Medication is another form of treatment. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, there are two antidepressant medications approved in the treatment of PTSD. These medications can help alleviate the mood related symptoms associated with a trauma related disorder. Additionally, there are non-psychiatric medications than can be prescribed to help those who struggle with nightmares and sleep issues related to PTSD. Without an evaluation, no one can tell you if medication, therapy or a combination of both is your best option. Medications can be provided to you by a medical provider including your primary doctor, a psychiatrist or a nurse with specialized training and licensure. While some states allow psychologists with specialized training to prescribe medication, New Jersey does not allow this practice. It is important to remember that while medication can and most likely will reduce some of your symptoms, if you do not address the traumatic events and possible avoidance or learn skills to better cope, your symptoms will return if nothing in your life is changed and you stop your medication.