Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Trauma are often used interchangeably in society. Even though these two issues are related, they are different. According to the American Psychological Association, trauma is an emotional response to a terrible event. . Trauma can occur once, or on multiple occasions and an individual can experience more than one type of trauma.
Types of trauma can be:
- Physical or life-threatening event (i.e. domestic abuse, car wreck, etc.)
- Psychological trauma
- Sexual abuse/assault
- Historical trauma – this type of trauma is often associated with racial and ethnic population groups in the United States who have suffered major intergenerational losses and assaults on their culture and well-being
- Medical trauma
- Community violence (i.e. gang-related violence, interracial violence, police and citizen altercations, etc.)
- School violence/bullying
- Military trauma
- Traumatic grief/separation
- System-induced trauma/retraumatization (i.e. removal from home for individuals in welfare system)
- Natural disasters
- Forced displacement (i.e. refugees)
- War/terrorism/political violence
- and/or being a witness to any of the above traumatic events
Individuals who have experienced one or more traumatic event might experience behavioral, social, and/or emotional issues following the event. The effects can be so severe that they interfere with an individual’s ability to live a normal life. Some severe effects can be anxiety, depression and Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
PTSD is a mental health disorder that can develop in some individuals who have experienced trauma. A person suffering from PTSD can re-experience the traumatic event through flashbacks, dreams, and thoughts. The individual will actively avoid places, people, or thoughts that are reminders of the event. Individuals can often be easily startled, have difficulty sleeping, and experience outbursts of anger. The individual can also experience having negative thoughts about oneself or the world, have trouble remembering the event, or feel guilty or to blame for causing the event.
PTSD often follows a traumatic event, however not all traumatic events lead to the development of the disorder. After a traumatic event, some people will experience symptoms severe enough to lead to diagnosis of PTSD, while others will experience only some symptoms, and others will experience none at all. So you see, trauma and PTSD are intertwined but it is important for us to educate ourselves on the distinctions. If these issues lead to impairment in the individual’s everyday life, there are things one can do to help cope. First, talk with your doctor or mental health care professional. They may be able to refer you to additional resources, plus mental health professionals are trained to help address trauma and the symptoms that can follow a traumatic event to help an individual down the path of recovery. Also, talk with family and friends or see if there is a trauma support group in your area. Additionally, try to take part in activities that you enjoy and try to regularly engage in exercise. Even though trauma events can lead to debilitating symptoms, or a diagnosis of PTSD, know that it is possible for you or your loved one to recover from these symptoms, and/or diagnosis, and live a fulfilling life. Being open and talking about what you are experiencing with your doctor, mental health professional or loved ones is the first step in the path to recovery.
At the Hope and Healing Center we offer a Trauma support group for women, called the Living Hope Group. It is offered weekly on Wednesdays from 6:45 PM to 8:00 PM.
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders: DSM-5. Washington, D.C: American Psychiatric Publishing.
American Psychological Association. (2017). Trauma. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/topics/trauma
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2016, March 2). Types of Trauma and Violence. Retrieved from https://www.samhsa.gov/trauma-violence/types