Trauma and Stressor-Related Disorders

Trauma and stressor-related disorders include disorders in which the traumatic or stressful event is a criterion within the diagnosis. Trauma is an emotional distress response to a traumatic or stressful event such as an accident, sexual assault, war experience, or natural disaster. Immediately after the event, shock and denial are typical, as are symptoms of feeling anxious, sad, or angry, trouble concentrating, problems with sleep, and continuous thoughts about what happened.

Longer term reactions include but are not limited to unpredictable emotions, flashbacks, nightmares, dissociative episodes, strained relationships, severe anxiety, and even physical symptoms such as headaches or other pain, insomnia, or nausea. While these reactions and symptoms may be a normal response to a trauma or stressful event, the key is whether these reactions and symptoms manifest for a long period of time and/or become debilitating to a person’s normal functioning. Psychiatrists and Therapists can help these individuals find constructive ways of managing and coping with their emotions, thoughts, and memories.

Trauma and stressor-related disorders have no boundaries regarding age, gender, socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. Experience of trauma is especially common in the lives of people with other mental health disorders and with substance use disorders. Even if a person does not meet criteria for an official diagnosis of trauma or stress-related disorder—e.g., a person who is relatively high functioning in family, professional, or social life—a past traumatic event may need to be addressed in therapy and may even be underlying other subtle mental issues and/or physical issues. 


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