Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) & Trauma

Understanding Trauma

Trauma refers to an emotional response to a deeply distressing or disturbing event that overwhelms an individual’s ability to cope. The experience of trauma can result from a variety of events, including:

  • Natural disasters (e.g., earthquakes, floods)
  • Accidents (e.g., car crashes)
  • Violence (e.g., physical assault, domestic abuse)
  • Combat exposure
  • Sexual assault

Types of Trauma

  1. Acute Trauma: Results from a single incident.
  2. Chronic Trauma: Repeated and prolonged events such as domestic violence or abuse.
  3. Complex Trauma: Exposure to varied and multiple traumatic events, often of an invasive, interpersonal nature.

Symptoms of Trauma

  • Shock, denial, or disbelief
  • Confusion, difficulty concentrating
  • Anger, irritability, mood swings
  • Anxiety and fear
  • Guilt, shame, self-blame
  • Withdrawing from others
  • Feeling sad or hopeless
  • Feeling disconnected or numb

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

PTSD is a mental health condition that’s triggered by experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event. While everyone responds to trauma differently, some people develop PTSD.

Diagnostic Criteria (DSM-5)

  1. Exposure to a traumatic event: Directly experiencing, witnessing, learning about the event, or repeated exposure to its details.
  2. Intrusion symptoms: Recurrent, involuntary, and intrusive distressing memories, dreams, flashbacks.
  3. Avoidance: Avoiding reminders of the trauma, including people, places, conversations, activities, objects, and situations.
  4. Negative alterations in cognition and mood: Inability to remember the event, persistent negative beliefs, distorted blame, persistent negative emotional state.
  5. Alterations in arousal and reactivity: Irritability, reckless behavior, hypervigilance, exaggerated startle response, problems with concentration, sleep disturbances.

Risk Factors

  • Personal history: Previous trauma, family history of mental health issues.
  • Nature of the trauma: Severity, duration, and proximity to the event.
  • Post-trauma environment: Lack of support, ongoing stress.


  1. Psychotherapy:

    • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): Focuses on changing negative thought patterns.
    • Exposure Therapy: Helps people face and control their fear.
    • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR): Integrates cognitive and exposure therapy with guided eye movements.
  2. Medications:

    • Antidepressants: SSRIs like sertraline and paroxetine.
    • Anti-anxiety medications: Short-term use to manage severe symptoms.
    • Prazosin: Can reduce nightmares and improve sleep.
  3. Self-help Strategies:

    • Mindfulness and relaxation techniques: Meditation, yoga.
    • Healthy lifestyle: Regular exercise, balanced diet, adequate sleep.
    • Support groups: Connecting with others who have experienced similar trauma.

Coping with Trauma and PTSD

  • Seek Professional Help: Early intervention can prevent symptoms from worsening.
  • Build a Support Network: Stay connected with family and friends.
  • Educate Yourself: Understanding PTSD can help manage and reduce symptoms.
  • Practice Self-care: Engage in activities that promote physical and emotional well-being.


Trauma and PTSD can significantly impact an individual’s life, but with the right support and treatment, recovery is possible. Understanding the symptoms and seeking appropriate help are crucial steps towards healing.