Regaining Your Well-Being After Trauma Exposure
Traumatic events are an unfortunate but common part of everyday reality. In your lifetime, you have more than a 50/50 chance of experiencing this kind of event. It is possible to recover from trauma on your own. In fact, most adults naturally regain their sense of well-being over time. However, significant numbers of people cannot recover without some form of professional help. If they do not receive this help, they may eventually develop PTSD or another trauma-related condition.
If you need help recovering from trauma, you have effective options available. Today, mental health experts have an array of treatments known to support successful trauma recovery. These treatments can provide a benefit even if you are severely affected by a trauma-related disorder.
Types of Traumatic Events
What types of events are capable of triggering serious trauma? These events fall into two broad categories. The first category contains traumatic events that tend to happen just once to the average person. That includes such things as:
- A major injury that requires hospitalization
- Being physically or sexually assaulted
- Seeing someone else experience serious violence
- Living through a fire, earthquake or other natural disaster
- Having someone close to you die suddenly or unexpectedly
The second category contains events that may recur or happen on a regular basis. Examples here include:
- Living in an area affected by gang violence
- Sexual, emotional and/or physical abuse
- Taking part in combat or living in a war zone
- Being forced to flee your home due to violence, famine, etc.
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Common Trauma Reactions
Not everyone reacts to trauma in exactly the same way. However, certain kinds of reactions are common. Some of these reactions are psychological or emotional. Others take a physical form. The list of common short-term, emotional or psychological reactions includes such things as:
- Feeling numb or shocked
- Being in a hyper-alert state
- Losing at least some of your ability to think clearly
- Not being able to stop thinking about what happened
- Having a sense of panic or intense fear
- Withdrawing from social contact
Common physical reactions in the aftermath of a traumatic event include:
- Having headaches
- Not being able to sleep soundly
- Feeling fatigued or exhausted
- Sweating an excessive amount
- Having a rapid heartbeat
- Feeling dizzy
- Experiencing nausea and/or vomiting
The Roots of Trauma Recovery
Human beings are naturally equipped with the ability to overcome traumatic experiences. However, this capacity is not infinite. Everyone has a breaking point, after which their chances for serious after-effects begin to rise.
On the whole, adults have greater trauma resilience than children. This is true because they have had time to develop the mental faculties that support resilience. In contrast, children have not completed their brain development. For this reason, they lack some of mental skills needed to effectively process trauma.
Stages of Trauma Recovery
The natural process of trauma recovery occurs in stages. In the first stage, your brain and body begin to emerge from their hyper-aroused state. Your “fight-or-flight” response deactivates. When this happens, the chemical changes that support hyper-arousal begin to reverse themselves. Gradually, your systems return to normal. At the same time, you begin to mentally process what has happened to you. In the final stages, you return to your physical and psychological baseline. From beginning to end, natural trauma recovery takes about a month in most cases.
The Trauma and PTSD Relationship
PTSD is short for posttraumatic stress disorder. This disorder occurs when your natural trauma recovery capacity is overwhelmed. Instead of gradually fading away after a traumatic experience, your reactions stay the same or grow worse. As a result, you experience a significant decrease in your ability to function.
You cannot be diagnosed with PTSD until 30 days or more after a trauma has occurred. If you experience life-disrupting problems before that time, you may be diagnosed with ASD. This is the common shorthand for acute stress disorder. ASD can be diagnosed anywhere between three and 30 days after you are exposed to trauma. Roughly half of all people with ASD will later develop PTSD.
You may also develop what is known as adjustment disorder. People with this disorder do not meet the criteria for ASD or PTSD. Nevertheless, they experience unusually strong reactions to traumatic experiences.
Two other trauma-related conditions only occur in children. These conditions are reactive attachment disorder, or RAD, and disinhibited social engagement disorder, or DSED. Children may also develop the same disorders found in adults.
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Who Benefits From Trauma Recovery Treatment
People who benefit from trauma recovery treatment typically have ongoing trauma reactions. In adults, these reactions may be signs of diagnosable ASD, PTSD or adjustment disorder. In children, they may also be signs of RAD or DSED. In addition, ongoing trauma reactions may mean that you are at-risk for developing future problems.
Specific examples of things that may indicate a need for treatment include:
- Having continuing nightmares or sleep disturbances
- Feeling unable to cope with your emotions
- Experiencing ongoing physical symptoms of a trauma reaction
- Finding yourself avoiding things that remind you of a traumatic event
- Using drugs or alcohol to self-medicate your trauma reactions
- Avoiding contact with people you normally talk to
- Feeling as if you are reliving your traumatic experiences
- Having a hard time fulfilling important responsibilities
- Experiencing serious problems in your close relationships
- Lacking a supportive network of friends or family
The Goals of Trauma Recovery
There are several key goals of trauma recovery. These goals include things such as:
- Helping you understand how trauma has affected you
- Easing your current trauma-related symptoms
- Teaching you how to overcome trauma’s effects
- Giving your practical tips on how to continue your recovery after treatment
Treatment for Trauma Recovery
There are evidence-based treatments available for all trauma-related disorders. These treatments are backed by extensive studies and research. They have also been shown to work for large numbers of affected people.
Antidepressants are often used to control symptoms in people with PTSD and ASD. They are also used to help people with adjustment disorders. In addition, anti-anxiety medications may play a role in treatment. However, the backbone of effective trauma treatment is psychotherapy.
One common therapy option in trauma recovery is CBT, or cognitive behavioral therapy. Several forms of CBT may play a part in your recovery, including:
- Stress inoculation therapy
- Prolonged exposure therapy
- Cognitive processing therapy
Stress inoculation decreases your future susceptibility to stressful events. Prolonged exposure is designed to help you overcome the things that fuel your trauma reactions. Cognitive processing therapy helps you work through the beliefs and emotions that keep those reactions going.
Other kinds of therapy may also aid your trauma recovery. Potential examples of your options include:
- Supportive therapy
- Interpersonal therapy
- Psychodynamic therapy
Trauma therapy may be conducted one-on-one. However, it often takes place in a group setting. Group therapy can provide you with some important benefits. For example, it allows you to share your experiences with others in the same situation. It also provides a judgment-free space for discussing those experiences. Family therapy may also provide a big benefit for your recovery.
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The Right Facility for Trauma Recovery
What should you look for in an effective trauma facility? The right facility for trauma recovery will have certain features that indicate high-quality care. These features include such things as:
- A reliance on evidence-based treatments
- Treatments designed specifically for your condition
- A knowledgeable, experienced treatment team
- Customized, adjustable recovery plans
- A focus on you as a complete individual
- A safe, secure, and comfortable setting
Some facilities only provide treatment for mental illness. But others also provide treatment for substance problems. This is crucial for a couple of reasons. First, addiction is actually a mental health issue. It should therefore be understood in that context.
Just as importantly, addiction and other mental health conditions often occur together. If this happens to you, you cannot get better just by addressing one of your problems. Instead, you must get help for both of them. If you do not take this step, your odds of trauma recovery can drop sharply.
The combination of addiction and other mental illnesses is called dual diagnosis. Dual diagnosis is particularly common in people with PTSD. When it occurs, it can make your PTSD symptoms worse and harder to treat. It can have the same effect on your addiction-related symptoms. If you think you may have dual diagnosis, you need a facility that specializes in its treatment. This is the best possible way to support your recovery.
Seek Help for Trauma Recovery at Emerald Isle
At Emerald Isle, we understand the importance of effective trauma recovery. If you have any questions regarding the best recovery options for you, give us a call. We are standing by to provide you with expert advice.
Emerald Isle is also a premier trauma recovery provider. We specialize in the treatment of trauma-related mental health conditions. Crucially, we also specialize in dual diagnosis treatment. No matter how you have been affected by trauma, our customized care can help you recover. For more information on our specific treatment options, contact us today.
- U.S. National Library of Medicine – MedlinePlus: Traumatic Events and Children
- Victoria State Government Department of Health – Better Health Channel: Trauma – Reaction and Recovery
- American Psychiatric Association: What Is Posttraumatic Stress Disorder?
- Mayo Clinic: Adjustment Disorders – Diagnosis & Treatment
- U.S. National Library of Medicine – MedlinePlus: Dual Diagnosis
- Journal of Clinical Psychology: Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Co-Occurring Substance Use Disorders – Advances in Assessment and Treatment