Treatment for Trauma and Mental Health


Causes of Trauma

Trauma is an emotional and psychological response to an experience or event that is disturbing or distressing. Traumatic experiences are dangerous, disturbing, shocking, and scary. These events can be natural like an earthquake or hurricane, but they can also be caused by car accidents, other people, robbery, assault, attacks, or other crimes.

Trauma and stressor-related disorders are a collection of emotional and behavioral issues that could have been produced by childhood trauma and stressful events. 

These stressful and traumatic events can include exposure to emotional or physical pain or violence. Stressors like parental separation or divorce or even more drastic stressors like physical or emotional neglect can create issues when heightened and not addressed by a PTSD and trauma treatment specialist. Even siblings’ birth or moving homes can be a stressor that causes significant challenges for some children.

Types of Trauma Disorders

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)- Adolescents and children with PTSD show symptoms of persistent, frightful thoughts and recollections or flashbacks of a traumatic event. Other symptoms are sleep issues, school issues, avoidance of certain situations or places, depression, headaches, choppiness, or stomach aches.

Acute stress disorder (ASD)– Symptoms of ASD are comparable to PTSD but only happen within the initial month after a traumatic experience. Immediate treatment and proper social support can decrease the risk of ASD manifesting into PTSD.

Adjustment disorders- Adjustment disorders are harmful reactions to changes or stressful situations in a child’s life. The effects of adjustment disorders can be emotional like depression or nervousness or behavioral like misbehavior or violating other people.

React attachment disorder (RAD)– Children with RAD display little emotional response in exciting situations. This can be displayed by showing a lack of remorse after bad behavior or not responding to negative or positive emotional triggers. Some children with RAD may not seem like they want or need comfort from loved ones or that they care when a toy is taken away.

Disinhibited social engagement disorder (DSED)– Children who have DSED are remarkably open to communication with strangers. They become over-eager to develop attachments with others and are overly approaching, even to the point of hugging strangers. Such children may wander off with strangers without checking in with their guardians.

Unclassified and unspecified trauma disorders– Some behavioral and emotional reactions to trauma don’t fit the distinct categories listed above. This category is for those specific cases.

Signs of Trauma

Responses to traumatic experiences will vary, but most people will have intense responses directly after the event lasting several weeks or months afterward.

Responses to traumatic events may include:

  • Angry, irritable, mood swings
  • Continually thinking about the event
  • Feeling sad, angry, or anxious
  • Guilt, self-blame, shame
  • Numb or feeling detached
  • Shock, disbelief, or denial
  • Trouble focusing and sleeping
  • Withdrawing from others

In most circumstances, these kinds of responses are typical and will lessen over time. In some events, stressful feelings and thoughts after the traumatic event could continue for an extended period and interfere with someone’s lifestyle.

Signs somebody suffering from a traumatic event may need a specialist include:

  • Avoiding people or places that cause disturbing memories and responses
  • Crying often
  • Feeling angry
  • Frightening thoughts and reliving the event
  • Nightmares or trouble sleeping
  • Trouble thinking clearly
  • Worrying and feeling anxious, sad, or fearful

Symptoms of Trauma

Some people who have endured a traumatic event could have a short period of time when they’re mad, sad, or hurt, but they’ll overcome those emotions over time. Others might continue to suffer from several various effects that continue to hinder and frequently disrupt their lives. This is due to how trauma makes emotional, physical, and psychological symptoms challenging to cope with. 

Some symptoms after experiencing a traumatic event include:

  • Anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Denial
  • Easily startled
  • Fatigue
  • Fear
  • Feeling hopeless and disconnected
  • Guilt and shame
  • Insomnia
  • Mood swings
  • Muscle tension
  • Problems focusing
  • Racing heartbeat
  • Social isolation

Depending on people’s personal trauma and how they treat it, they may only experience a few symptoms or experiences even more than listed. By the way, the most effective way to treat trauma is to seek help from a therapist specializing in trauma and PTSD.

How Trauma Affects the Brain and Body

There are four central regions of the brain affected by trauma: the amygdala, hippocampus, the prefrontal cortex, and the brain stem. When feeling threatened, the brain signals the body to discharge stress hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol. Cortisol has been exhibited to damage cells in the brain, known as the hippocampus, responsible for laying down and integrating its memory. 

Research has shown that those who suffer from chronic trauma, like child abuse, actually have a smaller hippocampus. Having a smaller hippocampus could contribute to challenges with memory and learning. However, the more than just learned about the brain, including the hippocampus, the more realized it could change and grow. 

Researchers have found that we can produce new connections between brain cells, strengthening building healthy neural pathways with different experiences following trauma. 

Adrenaline and Its Effect 

When responding to trauma, a second stress hormone known as adrenaline is released into the bloodstream, which cranks up an area of the brain known as the amygdala and sends it into overdrive. The amygdala is accountable for laying down emotional memory and is crucial in detecting emotions like fear. 

This helps clarify why an emotionally charged moment gets seared into the brain (overactive amygdala), but the experience’s details become unclear (hippocampus). Sometimes, people get the feeling that they are reliving traumatic moments in the present. Such people’s past interferes painfully with the present, repeatedly.

The Prefrontal Cortex Response

The third area of the brain to examine when learning traumas impact is the prefrontal cortex, located in the brain’s front. Imaging has shown that it goes offline with far less movement in trouble or reliving a traumatic experience. 

Meanwhile, the amygdala gets fired up, so your fear center gets charged up too. From there, you don’t have the thinking and planning section of your brain working well, which makes it difficult to problem solve, focus, and feel present.

During an acute trauma moment, the brainstem automatically responds to the threat by initiating the fight, flight, freeze, collapse responses. People react by becoming angry, wanting to fight for themselves or feeling an urge to flee. 

Sometimes people become frozen and unable to move, looking like a deer in headlights. But, the inside of the body and brain is producing elevated levels of stress hormones because of the high-stress environment.

Treatment for Trauma

Treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder can help people regain a sense of control over their lives. The initial therapy administered is psychotherapy, which may also include medication. Combining these treatments can help symptoms for reasons that include:

  • Teaching skills on how to address symptoms
  • Help you think better about yourself and others
  • Learning ways to cope if any symptoms emerge again
  • Treating other issues related to the traumatic experience like anxiety and depression

Psychotherapy for Trauma

  • Cognitive therapy This form of talk therapy helps to recognize the cognitive patterns that keep you stuck, such as thinking negatively about yourself and the risk belief of something traumatic happening again. With PTSD, cognitive therapy is usually combined with exposure therapy. 
  • Exposure therapy-This form of behavioral therapy helps patients safely face both memories in frightening situations so you can cope with them effectively. Exposure therapy is especially helpful for nightmares and flashbacks. One approach uses for sure reality programs that allow patients to reenter the environment in which they experienced trauma.
  • Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR)– EMDR consolidates exposure therapy with a series of guided eye shifts that help patients process traumatic memories and change their reactions.

Everybody dealing with PTSD and the effects of trauma are examined to determine which kind of trauma and PTSD treatment suits their needs first.

Your therapist helps develop stress management skills to handle stressful scenarios adequately and cope with other stress in your life. These approaches can help you gain control of perpetual fear after encountering traumatic events. Between you and your mental health specialist, you can discuss which form of therapy or combination best suits your needs.

Medications for Trauma

Several forms of medications can help with PTSD symptoms which include:

  • Antidepressants- These prescription medications help with anxiety and depression symptoms. They can also help improve sleep issues and concentration. The selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor medicines like sertraline and paroxetine were all approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat PTSD. 
  • Anti-anxiety medications- These prescription medications relieve severe anxiety issues. Some anti-anxiety medications become abused; therefore, they are only recommended to use for a short time.
  • Prazosin- Several studies indicated that Prazosin could suppress reduce nightmares and some people with PTSD. Study participants had all different experience results; therefore, anyone considering Prazosin should speak to their doctor about this option.

Between you and your trauma specialist, you could figure out which medication is most suitable by producing fewer side effects for your symptoms and situation. Treatment can instantly help to improve mood and other symptoms within just a couple of weeks. You may try more than one medication, combine a couple, and play with dosages until you find the right dose.

Help for Trauma at Montare Behavioral Health

Continuing to live with the damage that a traumatic experience has caused can be very overwhelming. It can upset your entire life and produce much negativity. Don’t let the effects of trauma, complex trauma, or PTSD control you or a loved ones’ life any longer. Contact us here at Montare Behavioral Health and allow our trauma specialists team to answer all your questions.