Work burnout, financial set-backs, relationship conflicts: it’s obvious to say that we all encounter stress on a daily basis. But when a strong emotional response to an extremely disturbing or stressful event impairs a person’s ability to cope on a daily basis, it shifts from stress to trauma.
Trauma comes in many forms, and while experiencing a trauma like a car accident or natural disaster doesn’t always lead to PTSD or Acute Stress Disorder, it’s important to know the signs and symptoms of PTSD and Acute Stress Disorder, and the treatment options available.
Our trained therapists at HBH, in our offices around Western MA and Eastern MA, will find the most suitable type of psychotherapy, and if necessary prescribe medication to treat your PTSD or acute stress disorder, and guide you through your recovery.
“Trauma can be chronic and disabling if gone undiagnosed, disrupting a person’s ability to interact with the world and negativity impacting their relationships with others.”
– Shan Bishop, M.Ed with HBH Therapy
While we cannot always avert traumatic events, we can help you understand the experience, move past it, and restore your sense of well-being.
What is Trauma?
Trauma is the emotional response to an extremely disturbing event like an accident, rape, or natural disaster. The event overwhelms a person’s ability to cope, and causes feelings of helplessness, diminishes their sense of self, and ability to feel a full range of emotions.
Shock and denial typically set in immediately after the traumatic event, while reactions like unpredictable emotions, flashbacks, strained relationships and physical symptoms like headaches and nausea might be experienced long after the event.
There are three types of trauma: acute, chronic, and complex.
Acute: Acute trauma results from a single event, like a natural disaster.
Chronic: Chronic trauma is repeated and prolonged, like domestic violence or abuse.
Complex: Complex trauma is exposure to multiple traumatic events that are invasive and interpersonal, like sexual abuse within a relationship.
What is Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental health disorder that can develop after someone experiences a traumatic event, such as a natural disaster, a serious accident, a terrorist act, war/combat, or rape, or have been threatened with death, sexual violence, or serious injury.
What Can Cause PTSD?
While often associated with affecting soldiers and war veterans, PTSD can happen to anyone who has experienced a traumatic event, such as those listed above.
If the symptoms from the traumatic event (listed below) last for more than a month and severely interrupt a person’s ability to function on a daily basis, they might have PTSD.
If you or your loved one have experienced a traumatic event, and show signs of PTSD, it’s crucial to work with one of our trauma-focused therapists at HBH. Together, you will learn to restore your brain and body’s ability to find states of calm, safety, and regulation.
Symptoms of PTSD:
“People experiencing PTSD can be overwhelmed with intrusive thoughts and memories from the trauma, and feeling like they’re reliving it.”
– Shan Bishop, M.Ed with HBH Therapy
Reliving the event
- Vivid flashbacks
- Intrusive thoughts or images
- Intense distress at real or symbolic reminds of the trauma
- Physical sensations such as pain, sweating, nausea, or trembling
Feeling on edge
- Panicking when reminded of the trauma
- Easily upset or angry
- Extreme alertness, also known as “hypervigilance”
- Disturbed sleep or lack of sleep
- Irritability or aggressive behavior
- Difficulty concentrating
- Being jumpy or easily startled
Avoiding feelings or memories
- Feeling the need to stay busy
- Avoiding anything that resembles the trauma
- Unable to remember details of the trauma
- Feeling emotionally numb or cut off from emotions
- Feeling physically numb or detached from the body
- Unable to express affection
- Reckless or self-destructive behavior
- Alcohol or drug use to avoid memories
Negative thoughts and feelings
- Feeling unable to trust anyone
- Feeling like nowhere is safe
- Feeling like nobody understands
- Blaming yourself for the trauma
- Overwhelming feelings of anger, sadness, guilt, shame
If the following symptoms persist for several months after the trauma, you might have PTSD. One of our mental health therapists or counselors will help you cope with your trauma, even if it happened years ago. The sooner that you receive treatment, the sooner you can start to live the fulfilling life that you deserve!
What is Acute Stress Disorder (ASD)?
People with ASD have been exposed directly or indirectly to a traumatic event, but unlike people with PTSD, the intense, unpleasant, and dysfunctional reaction begins immediately after the trauma and typically lasts less than a month.
Symptoms of ASD:
The symptoms of ASD are identical to the symptoms of PTSD, however, the symptoms occur immediately after the trauma and last less than a month. Still, they can cause immense distress or disrupt important aspects of a person’s personal life.
Treatment for PTSD
It’s possible for most people to recover from PTSD with trauma-focused psychotherapy, treatment which focuses on the memory of the traumatic event or its meaning.
“Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) helps people who have experienced trauma change their unhelpful beliefs and understanding of the trauma. It gives people a perception of control over themselves, their emotions, and physical environment.”
– Shan Bishop, M.Ed with HBH Therapy
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): Focuses on the relationships between thoughts, feelings, and behaviors around the trauma. CBT targets current problems and symptoms, and focuses on changing negative patterns of behaviors, thoughts, and feelings with positive and practical thoughts and feelings.
- Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT): Focuses on reframing negative thoughts about the trauma. CPT often involves discussing your negative thoughts about the trauma with your therapist and learning how to modify and challenge disruptive beliefs related to the trauma.
- Prolonged Exposure (PE): Teaches you how to regain control of your negative feelings related to the trauma.
- Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR): Encourages you to briefly focus on the trauma memory while simultaneously experiencing back-and-forth movements and sounds (like waving a finger from side to side, a light, or tone).
Each of these trauma-focused psychotherapies use varying techniques to help you process and heal from your traumatic experience. After accessing and understanding you and your unique experience, one of our therapists at HBH will create an individualized treatment plan for you to heal from your trauma.
Treatment for ASD
Treatment for ASD focuses on reducing lingering symptoms of ASD (listed above) and preventing their development into PTSD.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): Helps people with ASD change their way of thinking about the traumatic event and shift their behaviors in anxiety-induced situations.
CBT teaches people to consciously pay attention to their thoughts and feelings through practices such as:
- Understanding Feelings: Recognizing and accepting emotions is the first step toward healthy coping.
- Relaxation and Stress Management Skills: Intentional relaxation skills, such as paced-breathing and progressive muscle relaxation, are useful when experiencing intense and unsettling emotions.
- Mindfulness and Meditation: Skills that are grounded in present awareness, such as meditation and mindfulness, allow patients to focus on the present moment, improve their decision making, and cope with difficult emotions.
- Managing Intense Emotions: Recognizing and understanding intense emotions helps patients act less impulsive and more centered when faced with conflict.
How Can I Schedule an Appointment with a Psychotherapist?
PTSD and ASD can be treated.
At HBH Therapy, one of our many experienced therapists in Amherst, Wilbraham, West Springfield, Franklin, and across Massachusetts will guide you through your recovery. With the correct form of psychotherapy, you will learn to feel safe and understood in the world and live the happy life that you deserve!
If you’re unsure of where to start, reach out to HBH Therapy and we will help you begin the healing journey that you deserve. Contact us today at (413) 343-4357 or request an appointment online.