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Do I Have Trauma?

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Trauma is an enduring emotional response to a shocking event.

In most cases, symptoms of traumatic stress resolve. Occasionally post-traumatic symptoms can develop into PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), a serious mental health condition requiring professional treatment.

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It is commonplace to be exposed to a traumatic event. National Center for PTSD reports that 50% of women and 60% of men will experience a traumatic event, such as: 

  • Acts of violence
  • Combat
  • Serious injury
  • Sexual assault
  • Terrorist acts
  • Death

It is normal to experience traumatic stress after exposure to a distressing and shocking event. Some people will suffer from traumatic stress by witnessing an abnormal event. Others are assailed by traumatic stress when a loved one undergoes a trauma. 

During the days and weeks following a trauma, you may start asking yourself questions such as:

  • Was I traumatized?
  • Am I going through trauma?

Wondering, “Do I suffer from trauma” is often prompted by the presentation of physical and emotional symptoms, including: 

  • Irritability
  • Nervousness
  • Anger
  • Sadness
  • Nightmares
  • Flashbacks
  • Depressed mood
  • Intrusive thoughts
  • Avoidance of anything associated with the trauma

Trauma is a specific form of stress that expresses exposure to shocking, abnormal events outside the range of typical daily experiences. Traumatic events are intense, distressing, and mentally painful. 

To qualify as a traumatic event per DSM-5-TR (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), the trauma must involve exposure to: 

  • Death or threatened death
  • Serious injury
  • Sexual violence

Exposure to a traumatic event is defined as: 

  • Directly experiencing the trauma.
  • Witnessing the trauma in person.
  • Learning of a loved one’s involvement in a traumatic event.
  • Repeated exposure to trauma, (police officers or first responders in the line of duty.

DSM uses this narrow definition of trauma to differentiate general stress responses and problematic trauma responses. 

Many individuals exposed to traumatic events suffer from more than the initial stress responses outlined above. Studies show that lifetime prevalence of PTSD ranges from 6% to 9%, with between 3.5% and 4.5% of the U.S. population diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder in any given year. 

PTSD is a psychiatric condition characterized by the following symptoms: 

  • Avoiding people, places, things, and memories associated with the trauma.
  • Reexperiencing the traumatic event.
  • Negative self-beliefs stemming from the trauma.
  • Hypervigilance and edginess.
  • Vivid nightmares and flashbacks.
  • Dramatic mood shifts.

While many of the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder are normal and healthy reactions in the weeks following a trauma, if they persist for a month this can develop into PTSD. There is also a risk of PTSD developing if symptoms start causing problems at home, work, or school. 

Note that trauma responses will differ from person to person. Many people will see no long-lasting negative effects from witnessing or experiencing a traumatic event. This can be evidenced by the rates of PTSD in the general population (8% of women and 4% of men) compared to the rates of those exposed to traumatic events (50% of women and 60% of men, according to the same data). 

PTSD is not the only potential adverse outcome experienced by those experiencing negative psychological effects from trauma. Other responses include: 

  • Major depressive disorder
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Substance abuse

Do I Have Childhood Trauma?

Childhood traumas can involve emotional, physical, or sexual abuse. Trauma in childhood can also occur as a response to events like natural disasters, domestic violence, or intra-community violence. 

Research from SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration indicates that two-thirds of children experience a traumatic event. 

If you have recently been pondering the question, “What childhood trauma do I have?” consider these potentially traumatic scenarios, in addition to psychological, physical, or sexual abuse:

  • Experiencing war
  • Becoming a refugee
  • Losing a loved one
  • Violence in school
  • Violence in the community
  • Loss of a loved one
  • Witnessing domestic violence
  • Life-threatening illnesses or accidents – 12% of children with physical health conditions and 19% of children with injuries will experience PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).
  • Natural disasters (54% of U.S families witness or experience disasters)
  • Physical assault or sexual assault
  • Neglect

Exposure to childhood trauma can trigger effects that persist into adulthood, such as: 

  • Depression.
  • Low self-esteem.
  • Forming attachments in romantic relationships.
  • Self-destructive behaviors.
  • Trust issues.

This landmark study on ACEs (adverse childhood experiences) reveals that the greater a child’s exposure to stressful or traumatic experiences, the higher the chance that they will engage in risky behaviors and develop chronic health conditions. 

Researchers found that study participants who experienced adverse childhood events were:

  • Twice as likely to smoke
  • Almost 3 times as likely to have STIs (sexually-transmitted infections)
  • Four times more likely to have COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
  • Seven times more likely to identify as an alcoholic
  • Ten times more likely to have a history of injecting illicit narcotics
  • Twelve times more likely to have attempted suicide

How Do I Know If I’m Traumatized?

Is your internet search history filled with queries like, “Do I have betrayal trauma 26 symptoms”, “Am I traumatized”, or “Do I have trauma quiz”? 

If so, you may not require a professional intervention for traumatic stress. Symptoms should subside over time. 

Some people, though, find that intense symptoms linger, while others find the symptoms start impacting daily living. In some cases, those exposed to trauma develop ASD (acute stress disorder), with symptoms presenting during the first month after the trauma. ASD symptoms are similar to PTSD symptoms, although symptoms must manifest for more than one month for a diagnosis of PTSD. 

Mental health professions like psychologists and psychiatrists can help you to formulate healthy and robust coping strategies for coping with the symptoms induced by exposure to trauma. 

If symptoms are especially intense during the first month after the trauma, or if symptoms persist for more than a month, you should seek professional help. You should also engage with treatment if your symptoms are disrupting your personal and professional life or daily functioning. 

Trauma affects people in many different ways depending on the following variables: 

  • Age when the trauma occurred.
  • Type of traumatic event.
  • Exposure to multiple traumas.
  • Severity of trauma.
  • Biological factors.
  • Other risk factors like co-occurring psychological issues or volatile family environment.

Although everyone responds to trauma in different ways, common responses can be categorized as follows: 

  • Changes to behavior: Avoiding people, places, or things that remind you of the traumatic experience. Social withdrawal and isolation.
  • Cognitive changes: Flashbacks, nightmares, intrusive thoughts, memory loss, problems with focus, confusion, mood swings.
  • Psychological complications: Panic attacks, anxiety, depression, obsessions and compulsions, guilt, shame, emotional numbing, detachment.
  • Physical complications: Insomnia, edginess, hypervigilance, aches and pains, rapid heartbeat, sexual dysfunction, changes to eating patterns, fatigue, exhaustion, muscle tension.

Trauma and Addiction

PTSD and substance use disorders co-occur at high rates. Those with post-traumatic stress disorder are up to four times more likely to develop substance use disorder than those without a PTSD diagnosis.

Among those with PTSD, 28% of women and 52% of men develop alcohol use disorder (the clinical descriptor for alcoholism). PTSD also heightens the risk of relapse during recovery from alcohol use disorder.

In the U.S. veteran population, almost half of those with substance use disorder present with a dual diagnosis of PTSD and SUD.

Evidence shows the correlation between trauma and substance abuse is particularly strong among adolescents with PTSD. 59% of adolescents diagnosed with PTSD subsequently develop substance abuse problems. The combination of these conditions leads to poorer treatment outcomes.

Addiction can inflame the following trauma symptoms:

  • Insomnia
  • Nightmares
  • Depression
  • Rage
  • Irritability
  • Paranoia
  • Avoidance
  • Social isolation
  • Emotional numbness
  • Hypervigilance
  • Suicidal ideation

Getting Help at California Detox

Psychologists can deliver evidence-based interventions to help you deal with traumatic stress, ASD, or PTSD. 

One of the most common forms of psychotherapy, CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) is proven effective for the treatment of various psychological disorders like traumatic stress. World Health Organization guidelines indicate the use of CBT to treat the symptoms of ASD in adults. Some research suggests that those who engage with trauma-focused CBT are at reduced risk of developing chronic PTSD. 

PFA (psychological first aid) is another form of therapy that can be effective for treating traumatic stress. Originally developed to help families in the aftermath of terrorism acts or disasters, PFA is now used for the treatment of those exposed to any type of trauma. Rather than treating stress as a disorder, PFA focuses sharply on coping and functioning in the face of stress. 

Additionally, traumatic stress – PTSD in particular – also responds favorably to:

  • EMDR therapy
  • CPT (cognitive processing therapy)

SSRIs can be beneficial for alleviating the symptoms of traumatic stress, either in isolation or in combination with psychotherapy. SSRIs are a type of antidepressants named selective serotonin-reuptake inhibitors for their mechanism of action. 

Family-based therapies can be effective for helping children and adolescents exposed to traumatic events.

Engage with all these interventions and more here at California Detox. Choose a treatment program at any level of intensity, including:

  • Inpatient program (residential rehab)
  • PHP (partial hospitalization program)
  • IOP (intensive outpatient program)
  • Virtual IOP (remote rehab)
  • OP (outpatient program)
  • Dual diagnosis treatment (for addictions with co-occurring mental health disorders)
  • Medical detoxification

When you are ready to seek the help you need to prevent trauma from holding you back, reach out to California Detox at 949.390.5377.

FAQs

Trauma can come in a lot of forms, including anxiety, depression, self-doubt, low self-esteem, and more. Because it can look so different for everyone, it can be best to seek out mental health treatment if you are struggling.
Your feelings are true to you. So, if you are feeling down, sad, hopeless, despair, or some other negative feeling, it is best to seek the help of a professional.

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