Trauma and Stressor Related Disorders

What is Trauma?

Trauma is a nonspecific term to describe deeply distressing or disturbing experiences. Trauma can be physical (e.g., bone fracture, head trauma, etc.) or emotional. Emotional trauma occurs following a stressful event or physical injury and can have debilitating long-term effects on moods, thoughts, and behaviors.

Alterations in arousal, reactivity, mood, thoughts, and behaviors can occur following traumatic experiences. When these alterations are persistent or cause impairment in important areas of functioning, we use the term “trauma disorder.”

There are three main types of trauma based upon the timeline of the traumatic experiences:

  1. Acute Trauma: Results from a single event. 
  2. Chronic Trauma: Repeated and prolonged exposure to traumatic experiences such as domestic violence and/or child abuse.
  3. Complex Trauma: Exposure to multiple different traumatic events such as the combination of physical and emotional traumatic experiences associated with military combat. 

Below we review three trauma and/or stressor related disorders: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Acute Stress Disorder, and Adjustment Disorders.

Please note that Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is reviewed elsewhere. 

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