Trauma and stress-related disorders are a group of emotional and behavioral problems that develop after an individual experiences a life-threatening, stressful, dangerous, or traumatic life situation.
Trauma- and stressor-related disorders can be divided into two broad categories:
Acute stress disorders
Previously, trauma- and stressor-related disorders were used interchangeably with anxiety disorders. But, now they are addressed as separate problems as a number of patients experience symptoms of anger, aggression, dissociation or anhedonia or dysphoria, rather than typical symptoms of anxiety disorder.
Acute Stress Disorder
In acute stress disorder, a traumatic event can affect a person:
Directly in the form of a serious injury or
Indirectly by witnessing close family members or friends battle traumatic events
Typically, people start experiencing symptoms within 4 weeks of the traumatic event. These may last for at least three days. However, unlike post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the symptoms do not exceed beyond one month.
Diagnosis of Acute Stress Disorder
As recommended by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), the diagnostic criteria for this disorder includes:
Negative mood, intrusion, arousal, avoidance, and dissociative symptoms
Direct or indirect exposure to a traumatic event, with the presence of nine or more of the following symptoms for a period of three days to a month:
Recurrent occurrence of distressing dreams of the event
Disturbed sleep patterns
Experiencing dissociative reactions (such as flashbacks) in which patients relives the traumatic event
A persistence sense of negativity like inability to acknowledge positive expressions like satisfaction, happiness, or feelings of love, passion or care
Experiencing frequent, intrusive and involuntary memories of the distressing event
Feeling intense physiological or psychological at the mere hint of the distressing event like entering a similar location, hearing similar sounds, or encountering similar situations
Inability to sense reality, characterized by signs like time slowing, feeling dazed, altered perceptions, irritability, or angry outbursts
Hypervigilance and difficulty concentrating
Exaggerated startle response
In addition, an individual may experience impaired social or occupational functioning.
Adjustment disorders are characterized by impairing or distressing emotional and/or behavioral symptoms resulting from a known or markedly identified stressor.
It is normal for people to feel angry, sad, or upset for different reasons. But, these reactions do not qualify to be labeled as a disorder unless the emotional impairment is intense enough to cause a significant change in a person’s behavior, response, and most importantly, function.
Stressors that may contribute to adjustment disorders may include:
A single, discrete event such as losing a job
Multiple events such as financial and romantic setbacks
Ongoing problems such as caring for a significantly disabled family member
However, these stressors may not be overwhelming traumatic events like in a post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Symptoms and Signs of Adjustment Disorders
An adjustment disorder typically begins just after one experiences a stressful event and does not proceed beyond six months after the problem subsides.
The common symptoms include:
Diagnostic Criteria for Adjustment Disorders
As suggested by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), patients may experience ≥ 1 of the following:
Marked distress that is way too serious than any stressor (something associated with tremendous grief or trauma)
Experiencing symptoms that significantly impair occupational or social functioning
Treatment of Trauma and Stressor-Related Disorders
The treatment of any trauma and stressor related disorder cannot follow a straight line. As each person is different, the treatment program also needs to be different. An ideal treatment program would constitute the following:
Self-care: Self-care is the first step towards the healing of people experiencing an aftermath of a crisis or trauma situation.
Self-care has 3 major components:
Physical health: Physical health and mental health are interrelated with each having an effect on the other. Therefore, it is important that the person at-risk adopts a healthy lifestyle including eating nutritious meals, sleeping well, exercising regularly, and avoiding sedatives and intoxicants.
Personal safety: Personal safety is a key rule for anybody living with any kind of mental health problem. A traumatic episode tends to make people vulnerable to self harm or harm others. Personal safety safeguards both the patient and the others around them against situations involving domestic abuse, suicidal ideation, or an infectious pandemic.
Mindfulness: Mindfulness is a great strategy that empowers a traumatized individual to manage distressing emotions of stress, anger, sadness, and isolation. It can help bring positivity in life and seeing life in a new light. This can be achieved by incorporating simple changes like going outside, taking a walk, practicing yoga and meditation, and eating healthy and balanced meals.
Medication and therapy: While most people recover after they learn to cope with the traumatic situation with self-help and empathy, some may need medication to get over the distressing situation.
Therefore, it is important to seek treatment and advice related to medication and other effective therapies, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), at a credible behavioral treatment center.
Psychotherapy: Trauma and stressor-related disorders may be so distressing at times that they can elevate the risk of suicide. A situation like this requires a thorough evaluation and an effective treatment plan. In this respect, researchers have suggested a wide variety of useful psychotherapies, including CBT, brief psychotherapy, and supportive psychotherapy.
Support groups and stress management techniques: It is always worthwhile to join support groups as these provide one an opportunity to meet people who share the same set of problems. It can be therapeutic to share problems with them. Additionally, one can also manage stress by devoting time to regular exercise, meditation, and mindfulness by joining such groups.
Trauma Management at Medical Concierge
Medical Concierge offers credible information on treatment programs and mental health professionals who can help people overcome trauma and stressor-related disorders. We recommend quality mental health treatment through the best-in-class treatment options, including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), exposure therapy, individual and group therapy, and experiential therapy like meditation.
Therefore, those who are looking for professional treatment at a licensed mental health treatment center can get in touch with the Medical Concierge. Call our 24/7 admissions helpline number (877) 636-0042 to learn more about your disorder and the treatment plan best suited to your requirements.
Medical Concierge offers quality, innovative and compassionate care for mental illnesses and co-occurring disorders. We also offer alumni services and continuing care to ensure sustained recovery.