What Are Trauma and Stressor-Related Disorders?
These disorders result from exposure to a traumatic or stressful event(s). Triggering events vary but can include witnessing death, actual or threatened serious harm, actual or threatened sexual violence, prolonged emotional neglect of children, and natural disasters. Symptoms can be similar across disorders but the length of time that they affect a person can vary. For example, acute stress disorder typically starts right after the event and can last up to a month. PTSD, on the other hand, may not develop until several months after the event and lasts more than a month. Reactive attachment disorder and disinhibited social engagement disorder affect less than 1% of children but occurs in nearly 40% of children in the foster care system. PTSD is believed to affect nearly 9% of the population. This diagnosis and acute stress disorder are more common in combat veterans and in people who have been assaulted or raped or been in motor vehicle accidents.
Subtypes of Trauma and Stressor-Related Disorders
- Reactive Attachment Disorder
- Disinhibited Social Engagement Disorder
- Acute Stress Disorder
- Adjustment Disorder
- unable to experience pleasure
- feeling alienated from others
- startle response
- feeling numb or disconnected from yourself
- intrusive memories of triggering event(s) or traumatic nightmares
- self-destructive or reckless behavior
Diagnosis and Treatment
Trauma and stress-related disorders are typically diagnosed by mental health professionals such as psychiatrists or psychologists. It is important to see a trained professional with experience in these disorders as they can significantly interfere with a person’s daily functioning and require specialized care. Treatment typically involves a combination of medication and therapy. The medication (especially anti-depressants) can alter serotonin levels in the brain, which can minimize the emotional stress experienced by the person. Therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and exposure therapy can help the individual learn new ways to think about and react to stressors.
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