What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Trauma Therapy? Methods of Diagnosis and Therapy

There are differences between trauma therapy and trauma counseling. Consultants intend to help people solve uncomplicated problems. Trauma therapy aims to treat complex trauma processes with clinical tools. In this context, information about trauma therapy and post-traumatic stress disorder will be given and diagnostic and therapy methods will be referred.

What is Psychological Trauma?

In psychology, the expression of trauma means a problematic situation or an event that poses a major threat, with feelings of abandonment, fear and helplessness and or unprotected victimhood. The person is not likely to cope with this situation or incident. As a result of this threatening situation, the person or his or her world may be permanently shaken or psychological distress may be triggered.

what is post traumatic stress disorder and trauma therapy? methods of diagnosis and therapy 1
Trauma Therapy @thehealthymindmovement

What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a delayed psychological reaction to an extremely stressful event, an unusual threat, or a catastrophic event. These experiences can be short or long term traumas such as severe accidents, bullying, natural disasters or war situations.

People experience feelings of fear and helplessness together and thinking that they have no means of dealing with this situation.

Furthermore, PTSD is the only disorder in psychiatry in which the initiating factor, the trauma exposure, can be identified. [1]

 Twin studies have shown that the development of PTSD following a trauma is heritable, and that genetic risk factors may account for up to 30–40% of this heritability. [2]

What are the Symptoms? What Symptoms Can be Seen?

Generally, PTSD consists of symptoms of nightmares and fearful dreams, as well as daydreams and false past hallucinations and symptoms called reliving the event.

Besides of these symptoms, escape and avoidance symptoms are observed too. These symptoms may appear as emotional dullness, apathy and indifference towards the environment and other people, active avoidance and avoidance of activities and situations that may remind negative memories of the trauma experienced. In some cases, important parts of the traumatic experience may not be partially or completely recalled. In addition to these symptoms, sleep disturbances, restlessness, difficulty concentrating, high level of alertness or significantly timidness, and involuntary hyper-excitement may emerge.

These types of triggering experiences can make almost any person feel into deep despair. Unlike adjustment disorder,  this hopelessness can be easily triggered by stress factors at any level. At the same time, even a secondary level of stress caused by traumatic events in the person’s close environment can lead to the emergence of PTSD symptoms.

Traumatic and Post-Traumatic Stess Disorder

Most people face a traumatic event at least once in their lifetime. The likelihood of experiencing PTSD after a traumatic experience depends on the type of trauma.

For example, more than a third of those affected by PTSD are victims of got raped, other violent crimes, and war trauma. Post-traumatic Stress Disorder can also be caused by natural disasters, fire, chemical disasters, traffic accidents and acute diseases, such as heart attack and cancer. However, the risk in such situations is relatively significantly lower. Among all types of trauma, the average rate of PTSD is around 10% while the risk of having a PTSM during a person’s lifetime is about 8%.

Classification of PTSD

The expressions of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Syndrome and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are used as synonyms for the same purpose. According to the International Classification System, severe stress and adjustment disorder reactions are classified as psychological disturbances in the ICD-10 class.

Causes of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is always based on a specific event or a trauma. The person is personally the victim or witness of the event. To give an example, this person can be one of those who experienced the incident as a rescuer.

Traumas can be divided into two types according to their kinds:

First Type is short-term and one-off traumas such as natural disasters and accidents.

Second Type is long-term and repeated traumas such as captivity, prisoner of war and sexual harassment over a long period of time.

Typical Triggers of PTSD:

• Wars, riots, exile, escape, terrorist attacks

•Individual violence such as rape, sexual harassment, torture, assault, abduction

• All types of accidents, traffic accidents, occupational accidents and sports accidents

• Natural disaster are like fires, lightning, floods, avalanches or earthquakes

• Disasters caused by humans which are fires, explosions, plane crashes, train crashes, ship crashes, industrial accidents

• Severe illnesse like heart attack, cancer, as well as intensive care, emergency room surgeries.

Risk Factors for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Genetic factors increase the risk of developing PTSD. Environmental influences and learning experiences also play an important role. Among the factors affecting the development of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder are the following;

• Lack of social support that can be provided by family, friends or colleagues after a traumatic experience.

• Situation of being young or old,

• Presence of psychological disturbances or trauma in the personal health history,

• Having psychological disorders or traumatic events in the family

• The long-term and heavy trauma experiences

• Low socio-economic situation.

Causes of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Re-Experiencing Symptoms: Stressful memories of trauma, instant flashback hallucinations, nightmares.

Avoidance Symptoms: Emotional dullness, apathy and indifference towards the environment and other people, active avoidance and avoidance of activities and situations that may remind negative memories of the trauma experienced. In some cases, important parts of the traumatic experience may not be partially or completely recalled.

Unintentional Excessive Excitement: Sleep disturbances, anxiety, difficulties in concentration, high level of alertness or being significantly timid.

In most people with PTSD, the way one perceivest themself and their world is shaken, and their confidence in other people is permanently impaired. In addition, the person experiences great feelings of guilt or shame or self-hatred. Their ability in important areas of life is restricted and it becomes a torture for a person to cope with daily work.

PTSD can negatively affect the course of physical condition. PTSD also increases addiction, depression (major depression) and other psychological disorders.

Diagnosing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is diagnosed when the relevant symptoms stay more than four weeks and limits a person’s ability to perform in important areas of the life. If symptoms last for more than three months, chronic PTSD is diagnosed.

The psychotherapist examines the patient’s health history and current symptoms and possible risk factors in a detailed interview with the client, and correlates them with the patient’s general health status and current living conditions. It is important that the conversation takes place in a safe atmosphere, so that the person concerned can open up to the psychotherapist without feeling any insecurity.

Basically, in the diagnostic examination, the trauma causing this discomfort is carefully examined and the significance of the trauma in question for the person affected is carefully determined. Each symptom of PTSD is systematically examined individually, and their severity and severity are evaluated. In this context, other psychological disorders that may cause an extreme stress state must be eliminated (by also diagnosing).

Therapy for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

For successful treatment of PTSD, early diagnosis by a psychotherapist and comprehensive psychotherapy is very essential.

Psychotherapy practice is basically a trauma focused psychotherapy. In some cases, if necessary with the participation of a psychiatrist, it can be supported by medication.

Purpose of this therapy;

• Helping the person to control the memories he / she remembers involuntarily,

• Eliminating fear, depression, sleep disorders, concentration problems and similar accompanying symptoms by reducing them,

• Supporting the person to adopt the relevant trauma as a part of his or her life story and to adopt a new perspective and way of thinking,

• Improving the psychosocial function of the person and especially regaining his working ability.

When the client is stable enough, trauma experiences and memories associated with these traumas should be separated step by step. These things should be conducted with the therapist and they are included in this client’s biography. Learning the necessary strategies to prevent the risk of relapse is also included in this process.

In scientific researches, it has been determined that CBT and EMDR are the most effective therapy methods in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder. The manualized CBT-Ts with the strongest evidence of effect were Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT); Cognitive Therapy (CT); and Prolonged Exposure (PE). There was also some evidence supporting CBT without a trauma focus. [3]

Therapeutic methods other than CBT and EMDR;

  • Psychodynamic therapy (psychoanalytic psychotherapy)
  • Hypnosis therapy (hypnotherapy)
  • Philosophy therapy
  • Psychosynthesis (psychosynthesis therapy)

Last Updated on January 2, 2021 by Lucas Berg

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