Psychological Traumatic-Stress Disorders

Types, Symptoms, Causes, & Treatments

Psychological or emotional trauma can occur when one experiences an event (or several events) in which death, serious injury, or sexual assault, are threatened— or actually occur. A person can also be traumatized by hearing of these events happening to a loved one. First responders and soldiers can experience psychological trauma as a result of repeated exposures to these types of events.

Traumatic-Stress Disorders manifest as either Acute Stress Disorder or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, depending on several factors, including how long symptoms last. With medical support and psychotherapy, survivors of trauma can learn ways to manage, reduce, or eliminate their symptoms and reclaim their lives.


How Trauma Can Affect the Mind and Body

During the Trauma
During an emotionally traumatic event, the survival part of the brain initiates the release of stress hormones to prepare the body physically to respond to the perceived threat. Responses during a traumatic event are not conscious decisions, but rather are based on a subconscious assessment of what response (i.e., fight, flight, freeze, submit) will maximize one’s chances for survival

Following the Trauma
Following psychologically traumatic events, trauma-related stress symptoms will occur in 6-50% of people (depending on the nature of the trauma). For the majority of people, these symptoms will disappear within four weeks. When symptoms persist beyond four weeks, one should be assessed for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Symptoms can be physical, emotional, behavioral, and spiritual in nature. They can also impact thinking, causing problems with memory, concentration, problem-solving and decision-making. Symptoms might emerge within hours or days of a traumatic experience. When symptoms are extreme, include thoughts of suicide, interfere with aspects of daily life, and/or last for more than four weeks, one should seek medical and/or counseling assistance.

Types of Psychological Trauma-Related Disorders

Types of psychological trauma-related disorders include Acute Stress Disorder and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.


The symptoms of Acute Stress Disorder and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder may be similar, but have some specific differences.

How to Get Help for Psychological Trauma-Related Disorders

  • Type of trauma experienced: Depending on the type of trauma experienced, (domestic violence, sexual assault, military service, first responders), there may be specific associations, agencies, or groups that offer therapy services or peer support services. Therapists might also specialize in providing trauma therapy to survivors of specific types of trauma.
  • Developmental stage: Some mental health professionals will have expertise with specific age groups (children, families, youth, adults, seniors)
  • Presence of other mental illnesses: Trauma-related disorders sometimes occur with other illnesses such as addictions, depression, or anxiety. Some therapists or therapy programs are specifically geared towards survivors of trauma who are dealing with PTSD and another of these illnesses.
  • Access to health insurance: Whether you have it, and if it covers specific medical, psychological, or counseling services.
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