Trauma & PTSD

What is trauma and PTSD?

Trauma is the emotional response to deeply stressing or alarming events with lasting effects on the individual’s health. Trauma overwhelms the individual’s ability to cope, causes feelings of helplessness and diminishes their sense of self.  Trauma does not discriminate and can affect anyone. It can occur at any age but it has especially attenuated long-term effects on children’s developing brains. 

PTSD or post-traumatic stress disorder is a mental health disorder that is triggered by a disturbing event. The disturbing event is often life threatening, such as combat, a natural disaster, a car accident, or sexual assault. Sometimes the event does not need to be life threatening such as unexpectedly losing a loved one. PTSD can develop at any age but there are many factors that can determine if you will develop PTSD such as your sex; women are more likely to develop PTSD, having had childhood trauma, and having minimal social support after the event. The main difference between PTSD and trauma is important. A traumatic event is time-based, while PTSD is a longer-term condition where one continues to have flashbacks and re-experiencing the event. People with PTSD often experience intrusive memories.

What does trauma and PTSD look like?

Everyone reacts to trauma and PTSD in different ways, People experience a wide range of symptoms such as:

  • 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
  • Insomnia or nightmares
  • Fatigue 
  • Racing heartbeat
  • Aches and pains

How does DSM define trauma and PTSD?

*Please note that this is intended for educational purposes only. For a diagnosis of PTSD, you must have a complete history & evaluation completed by a behavioral health specialist.*

Criterion A: stressor (one required)
The person was exposed to: death, threatened death, actual or threatened serious injury, or actual or threatened sexual violence, in the following way(s):
  • Direct exposure
  • Witnessing the trauma
  • Learning that a relative or close friend was exposed to a trauma
  • Indirect exposure to aversive details of the trauma, usually in the course of professional duties (e.g., first responders, medics)
Criterion B: intrusion symptoms (one required)

The traumatic event is persistently re-experienced in the following way(s):

  • Unwanted upsetting memories
  • Nightmares
  • Flashbacks
  • Emotional distress after exposure to traumatic reminders
  • Physical reactivity after exposure to traumatic reminders
Criterion C: avoidance (one required)

Avoidance of trauma-related stimuli after the trauma, in the following way(s):

  • Trauma-related thoughts or feelings
  • Trauma-related external reminders
Criterion D: negative alterations in cognitions and mood (two required)

Negative thoughts or feelings that began or worsened after the trauma, in the following way(s):

  • Inability to recall key features of the trauma
  • Overly negative thoughts and assumptions about oneself or the world
  • Exaggerated blame of self or others for causing the trauma
  • Negative affect
  • Decreased interest in activities
  • Feeling isolated
  • Difficulty experiencing positive affect
Criterion E: alterations in arousal and reactivity

Trauma-related arousal and reactivity that began or worsened after the trauma, in the following way(s):

  • Irritability or aggression
  • Risky or destructive behavior
  • Hypervigilance
  • Heightened startle reaction
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty sleeping
Criterion F: duration (required)
  • Symptoms last for more than 1 month.
Criterion G: functional significance (required)
  • Symptoms create distress or functional impairment (e.g., social, occupational).
Criterion H: exclusion (required)
  • Symptoms are not due to medication, substance use, or other illness.

How can therapy help trauma and PTSD?

The main goals of therapy is to improve your symptoms, teach you skills to deal with it, and restore your self-esteem. Mental health professionals will typically use cognitive behavioral therapy. CBT or cognitive behavioral therapy helps change the thought patterns that are interrupting your life.  

When should I call your office? 

If you or your loved ones have concerns about trauma or PTSD, you can work with a specialist. At Soma Therapy, we can help! Call 316-201-6047 or fill out our contact form to get help & learn more about trauma and PTSD today. We also often provide referrals in-town if we cannot connect you with the right resources within Soma Therapy. 

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