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PTSD & Trauma FAQ

What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?

PTSD is a disorder that develops in some people who have been exposed to a shocking, stressful, dangerous, or frightening event. DSM criteria for diagnosis requires exposure to a stressor, such as threatened death or violence, through direct exposure or witnessing someone else undergoing this. Afterwards, the event is persistently re-experienced through:

  • Intrusive, upsetting memories
  • Nightmares
  • Flashbacks
  • Emotional distress after being reminded of the trauma
  • Physical reactivity after being reminded of the trauma

Avoidance is also characteristic to cases of PTSD – sufferers will avoid places, feelings, thoughts, people, and items that remind them of the event or those associated with it. People experiencing PTSD will have negative thoughts and moods following the event, including possible memory loss, a negative outlook on the world and themselves, placing exaggerated blame on themselves or others, anhedonia (disinterest in formerly enjoyable activities), low mood, and increased isolation.

PTSDThose who have experienced trauma may also become more physically reactive. The body’s fight-or-flight response has been altered by exposure to the event, resulting in irritability, aggression, risky behavior, hypervigilance, difficulty concentrating, sleep problems, and a heightened startle reaction – the person may appear jumpy and easily frightened.

In order to be diagnosed with PTSD, symptoms must have persisted for more than one month and have created difficulties in functioning.

If I’m not in the military, could I still have PTSD?

A variety of events can be classified as traumatic experiences. These may be singular, one-time events, or they could take the form of ongoing abuse over a long period of time.

A large national mental health study found that the most common trauma for women is sexual assault or childhood sexual abuse; about one in three women will experience such an assault in her lifetime. Rates of assault are higher for women than for men, and women are more likely to be neglected or abused in childhood, to experience domestic violence, or to experience the sudden death of a loved one.

Types of traumatic events include:

  • Sexual assault or rape
  • Exposure to violence or threat of violence
  • Domestic violence or spousal abuse
  • Abandonment or neglect
  • Severe illness or sudden injuries, including falls or sports injuries
  • Death of a loved one
  • Kidnapping or robbery
  • Car accidents
  • Workplace accidents
  • Divorce or end of a significant relationship
  • Witnessing a mass shooting
  • Verbal, physical, or emotional abuse
  • War or combat
  • Natural disasters

What is trauma?

Trauma is the response to a deeply disturbing, distressing event that overwhelms one’s ability to cope, causing feelings of helplessness and ongoing issues in the form of anxiety and stress responses. The World Health Organization estimates that at least one third of people have experienced trauma in some form.

Generally, these events include abuse of power, betrayal, loss of control, physical or emotional pain, helplessness, or loss of a loved one. They take a variety of forms, including sexual or physical abuse, sudden death of a loved one, or any type of accident. Trauma may occur at any point in one’s life, from childhood to adulthood. Many people overcome these events by themselves, but some people are more susceptible to developing a severe trauma response called PTSD.

How common is PTSD?

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, about 7 or 8 out of every 100 people will develop PTSD at some point in their lives – that’s 7-8% of the American population, or about 8 million adults nationwide.

PTSD is a women’s issue. While a majority of early information focused on male combat veterans, women’s exposure to trauma and PTSD is higher across the board. 10% of women develop PTSD at some point in their lifetimes, compared to 4% of men.

Why do some people recover after experiencing trauma, while others develop PTSD?

Events are more likely to traumatize someone if they were severe, unnecessarily cruel, unexpected, or occurred repeatedly. Some people are more susceptible to trauma than others, particularly those who were blindsided by the event, lacked coping mechanisms, had other stressors in their lives, felt powerless to prevent the trauma, or were children at the time. Others are genetically predisposed to develop PTSD instead of gradually recovering.

How is PTSD treated? How is trauma treated?

Unfortunately, PTSD doesn’t go away on its own. Fortunately, there is a path to recovery. Through the use of evidence-based treatment modalities, complete healing is possible. A wide array of psychotherapies is available, meaning that each individual can receive treatment tailored to her personal needs.

Therapeutic techniques for trauma treatment include:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)
  • Motivational Interviewing (MI)
  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
  • Somatic Experience
  • Role Play
  • Psychodrama
  • Experiential Treatment
  • Ecotherapy (Nature Therapy)
  • Family Sculpting
  • Music Therapy
  • Art Therapy
  • Yoga Therapy
  • Mindfulness Training
  • Equine Therapy

In many instances, it is recommended for those experiencing a negative reaction to trauma to attend a residential treatment program. This is especially true in instances of dual diagnosis – if a person has both PTSD and a substance use disorder, both issues must be treated simultaneously.

Healing Women from Trauma and PTSD

Canyon Crossing is a women’s-only treatment center specializing in recovery from both trauma and substance use. Through a structured approach with proven methodologies, we help residents remember their true selves and move forward as women of grace. To learn more about our comprehensive trauma treatment services, dial 1-800-651-7254 today.