What is the Difference Between PTSD and Trauma?

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You can experience Trauma without developing PTSD

Trauma is the name of an event that occurs that is beyond our physical, psychological, or spiritual abilities to cope. The responses we have to a trauma are considered traumatic reactions, sometimes these are temporary, others cause more significant adaptations. We can experience traumatic reactions in response to a trauma we experience directly, hearing about a trauma a loved-one experienced, or repeated exposure to others’ traumas. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a particular cluster of trauma reactions that a person develops as the result of one or more traumas.

There are countless events that can trigger trauma; being neglected, natural disasters, sexual assault, violence, or serious illness. While those that experience trauma might have behavioral, social or emotional issues following the event, they may be able to heal through a supportive social network, counseling, or professional therapy. Common mental health reactions to trauma include Anxiety, Depression, Acute Stress Disorder, PTSD, Adjustment Disorders. There are several more mental health conditions that correlate with trauma and many atypical reactions that may occur. These reactions can develop immediately or years after a traumatic event.

How do I know if I have PTSD?

It is best to get assessed by a mental health professional to determine whether you have PTSD or any other mental health disorder. If you’ve experienced a trauma and notice changes in your thinking, behavioral, emotional, or arousal, and it is causing you distress or impacting your functioning, it is wise to seek treatment to get help with whatever changes you are experiencing.

There are four types of symptoms that are present in people experiencing PTSD: Intrusion, Avoidance, Alteration in Mood or Thinking, and Arousal. People with PTSD experience at least one symptom from each cluster for more than a month, experience distress or reduced functioning as a result of the symptoms, and trauma is the cause of the symptoms. If you are experiencing all of the symptoms but it’s been less than a month, you may be experiencing Acute Stress Disorder (which can turn into PTSD if it doesn’t go away/goes untreated).

Intrusion Symptoms

  • Involuntary and recurring memories of the traumatic event
  • Repeated dreams or nightmares where the content or emotion is related to the traumatic event
  • Re-experiencing the event as though it was happening in the here and now; highest intensity can be full-blown flashbacks
  • Strong psychological distress when presented with reminders of the event
  • Strong physiological reactions when presented with reminders of the event

Avoidance Symptoms

  • Avoidance of (or efforts to avoid) distressing memories, thoughts or feelings about the trauma, or that relate to the trauma
  • Avoidance of (or efforts to avoid) external reminders of the event (people, places, objects, activities, situations) or elements that are closely associated with the event

Alteration in Mood and Thinking Symptoms

  • Amnesia ( an inability to remember an important aspect of the event, or the event in its entirety)
  • Persistent and exaggerated (or intensified) negative evaluations of the world, others, or the self (e.g., nobody can ever be trusted, the world is evil, I am horrible)
  • Persistent distorted thoughts about the cause or consequence of the trauma that cause a person to blame themselves or others for the traumatic event
  • Persistent negative emotional state; typical emotions include shame, guilt, fear, horror and anger
  • Loss of interest in activities that one normally enjoys
  • Feeling disconnected or detached from others
  • Inability to experience comfortable/enjoyable emotions like happiness, love, laughter or satisfaction

Arousal Symptoms

  • Increased irritability or angry behavior with little to no provocation
  • Explosive sadness or crying with little to no provocation
  • Impulsive, reckless, or self-destructive behavior
  • Consistently feeling keyed-up or tense
  • Feeling constantly on guard, or the need to never let one’s guard down
  • Heightened/exaggerated startle response
  • Problems with concentration or memory
  • Problems with sleep (falling asleep, staying asleep, staying awake)

Can you develop PTSD from someone else’s Trauma?

If a traumatic event occurs to someone you’re very close with, particularly when it happens very suddenly, you may have a traumatic reaction to it. Additionally, if your work involves repeated exposure to trauma (first responders, nurses, police officers, ER doctors, firefighters, etc.) you may also develop traumatic reactions. These experiences are called secondary trauma. Secondary trauma can lead to the development of PTSD.

How is PTSD treated?

If you or someone you know is having a difficult time coping with trauma, therapy can make a huge difference. PTSD is treatable. It’s more effective if treated early, but it’s never too late to get treatment no matter how long ago the trauma occurred.

There are many factors when treating PTSD including your specific symptoms and the event itself. There is both a need to treat the symptoms to make life more livable in the here and now, as well as treat the mindbody to heal in the long-run. Each treatment is tailored specifically to the individual. This means that, at Mindful Healing, we take time to determine the best way to help you. Asking for help is a sign of courage, and one of the first steps on your healing journey.

Do I need insurance to see a therapist?

No. In fact, at Mindful Healing Portland LLC., we accept clients on a sliding scale. We are currently accepting clients for our sliding scale rates.

If you live in Portland or the Portland area and want information or help with PTSD and Trauma,